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Pundits Say Filling Clementa Pinckney’s Senate Seat Crucial To Black Community
7/29/2015 5:10:10 PM

The late Senator Clementa Pinckney
By Barney Blakeney

The Sept. 1 Democratic primary election to choose a nominee to fill the S.C. Senate Dist. 45 seat previously held by the late Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney will include 11 candidates. Only one Republican will be on the ballot in the special election to be held Oct. 20.

While only about 15 percent of constituents in the majority Black district reside in Charleston County, political pundits say the election will have dire consequences throughout the district’s six counties and the state.

Dist. 45 includes parts of Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. Former Dist. 45 Sen. Rev. McKinley Washington, who held the seat 10 years before retiring in 2000, said the diverse district includes some of the Lowcountry’s richest and poorest residents. In the district’s majority Black communities, among the state’s poorest, the sitting senator wields considerable political power.

“Clementa was the ‘man’ in county delegations like Jasper County, Colleton County and Hampton County,” said one observer. “That seat is crucial for us.”

While in office Pinckney served as delegation chairman for Colleton and Jasper counties. Washington was chair of the Colleton, Hampton and Jasper county delegations when he served. With large numbers of Black constituents in those economically challenged communities, the representative senator can have significant impact, Washington said.

Lowcountry political leaders have begun to rally around Green Pond Rep. Ken Hodges, a former Bennettsville city councilman who has served in the S.C. House of Representatives since 2005. The Baptist minister is Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort.

“Hodges has the experience, he knows the ropes and would go into the senate with some seniority,’ Washington said. “We need someone in there who can hit the ground running.”

Other candidates on the Democratic primary ballot will be Chauncy Barnwell, William Bowman, Sheree Darien, Kent Fletcher, Libbie Green, R. Keith Horton, Margie Matthews, Richmond Truesdale, John Washington and Korey Williams. Al Fernandez is the only Republican candidate on the Oct. 20 special election ballot.

With so many candidates in the Democratic Primary election a Sept. 15 runoff election may be necessary. Washington and other Hodges supporters hope their candidate is strong enough to win the election outright. Voters need to go to the polls and cast their ballots Sept. 1, he said.

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