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The "nuts and bolts" of the County Council election process
Column by the Editor
posted March 28, 2008
COLUMN – Republican Senator Shane Massey’s
wining campaign slogan of “Shake up Columbia” may have filtered down to
his base constituency in Edgefield County as it seems things may be set
for a “shake up” of the Edgefield County Council. The political races
in Edgefield County have grown to a fervor unseen in the county in
decades. A flurry of activity has taken place over the past week with
eight challengers either filing or contemplating filing in four of the
five county council districts with a ninth being in talks to run in the
last unchallenged district. The unbelievable numbers of potential
candidates sends stern messages to incumbents; the voters are not happy
with the present entrenched leadership and want a change.
At present count two county council seats, District 5 in Merriwether
and District 2, the Westside/Edgefield area, have challengers. Genia
Blackwell has filed as a Republican in Merriwether. Four term incumbent
Joel Hudson has not filed to date but has scheduled to meet with
Republican Party Officials by Saturday and is expected to file for his
fifth term. Three term incumbent Everett Kitchens has filed as a
Republican as has his challenger Rodney Ashcraft. Voters in both
districts are heavily angered due to being hardest hit by the huge
increases in assessments that increased their taxes as much as 300% on
their homes and remember being ignored when they turned to an
unresponsive county council for relief.
Two years ago Dennis Zachow ran a short write-in campaign against Joel
Hudson due to the protest and took an extraordinary one third of the
vote. Those votes will not be in the Hudson column again this year and,
when challenged by Republican candidate Danny Bishop, Hudson’s wins
were mostly obtained by less than two dozen votes with a less than
popular candidate running against him. Running against Genia Blackwell,
who is nationally recognized for her financial acuity and leadership
abilities in addition to respected ties to the community, will make
this an interesting race that will hinge more on Hudson’s voting
record, his opponents credentials, and voter dissatisfaction.
A swing of just 45 votes could unseat Hudson making him among the most
vulnerable of candidates.
County Council District 2 Republican incumbent Everett Kitchens faces a
formidable challenge from Rodney Ashcraft, also a Republican. In 2006
Ashcraft ran an independent weeklong write-in campaign that drew nearly
30% of the vote. Like Hudson, Kitchens can be assured those votes will
not go his way in the primary on a Republican ticket vote and Ashcraft
needs to garner just 20% of the Republican vote to unseat Kitchens.
With no Democrat candidate it opens an avenue for cross party voting
which could supply more than enough votes to pull off a win.
This places Kitchens as another vulnerable candidate ripe for unseating
with a core constituency displeased with his voting record.
County Council District 1 has seen the most activity with several
potential candidates jostling for position and weighing their options.
Incumbent Norman Dorn has filed as a Democrat in the race already and
there are talks between two others interested in running against him as
a Democrat. The bottom line is Mr. Dorn will face a challenger in the
Democrat Primary on June 10 according to one of the proposed candidates
who has sworn to run.
According to information confirmed on Thursday three others have shown
an interest in filing as Republicans in District 1, with one of the
three confirming he would be filing today and a second still weighing
the options with a decision to come by the weekend. No contact has been
made with the third individual.
A one on one challenge in the local Democrat Primary by a single
candidate could put Dorn out of the race early. However, a three way
split on the Democrat and Republican ticket could throw the race into
unchartered waters. Three Democrats would force a run-off if no one
takes 50% plus one vote in the primary to win the nomination outright.
The same would hold true for the Republican candidates.
Dorn, who relies heavily on absentee voting for a contingent of his
voters is under close scrutiny and lists have been compiled for
verification purposes. Some within the local parties have brought a new
level of checks and balance that has not been seen before.
This is the first time Mr. Dorn will have to face opposition in the
newly drawn district that diluted his political base. District 1 now
reaches into the Westside area and crosses over into the Johnston area,
diluting his core base from a near 80% Democrat stronghold to an almost
even split of Democrat and Republicans.
Some Republicans have stated they would cross over to vote in the
Democrat Primary to unseat Dorn and then return to their party for the
November election. With a split in the Democrat vote and the inclusion
of Republicans crossing over Dorn could find himself as an observer in
the general election.
Long-time County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece is likely to face a
challenge on the Democrat ticket from a fellow Johnston resident.
Though confirmed to EdgefieldDaily.com of the certain challenge, the
proposed candidate has yet to turn in the paperwork received in order
to file to run. A surprise candidate contacted EdgefieldDaily.com
Thursday night that may be filing as a Republican. It is doubtful that
a Republican could win in the district, but early cross over votes
could make Chairman Kneece’s nomination questionable. With no
Republican opposition, it takes only one vote to move the Republican
candidate forward to the General election and cross over votes in the
primary could be a huge impact on the Democrat winner.
Long-term Vice Chairman Willie Bright is also vulnerable to a possible
last minute filing. The Bettis Academy area is suffering from a split
of powerful church that has been a catalyst for unity in voting. This
split has disrupted the political machine in the area and makes Mr.
Bright vulnerable to opposition from either race or political party.
Though County Council District 4 shows a population of a majority of
minority voters, the district includes the State Prison in Trenton and
when inmates, who cannot vote, are removed from the count the district
turns to a majority white population. If one of the two showing an
interest in running goes forward it would be an unprecedented challenge
in all five districts in a single election year.
The reality began to set in with incumbents about midweek that voters
could overturn a majority of seats on the county council and create a
tidal wave of change across the political spectrum that has not been
seen in the county since Reconstruction.
All appointments to committees, the administration, department heads,
and other agencies could face a major restructuring. Control of the
county council could lie with newcomers who have all promised to make
changes rather than maintain the status quo that has stifled progress
in the county for over a decade in what many describe as the “good ole
boy” system of government. Those entrenched in the system are just as
worried as the incumbents that fear losing the control.
At first the incumbents were not worried until they saw the onslaught
of voter dissatisfaction that has presented itself like never before
and they have quietly begun to circle the wagons trying to protect each
other including encouraging one who stated he would not run for
re-election to reconsider.
It appears the plan, which includes candidates across party lines
coordinating together to unseat incumbents in the June 10 primary, is
to give voters choices of new candidates from both parties in the
November General Election. The beauty of the plan is that it was not a
plan conceived and then launched, but one that has emerged as potential
candidates began talking with each other as the filing date closing
Unseen in other elections before is the race barrier not being a
barrier anymore nor is political party choice. Republicans are agreeing
to vote across party lines in some races and Democrats are agreeing to
do the same in others. With no state or national draw for party
politics in the primary, voters see an opportunity to effect change on
a local level in a grand scale and can do so without neglecting their
party loyalties in the General Election.
How will things shake out over the next three days is anyone’s guess.
EdgefieldDaily.com will have a full report of candidates that have
filed on Monday and will then begin contacting each for an interview
and will feature a special section that will run throughout the
election giving all candidates ample opportunity to make their case as
to why they feel they are the best choice to be elected or re-elected
original material is property of
EdgefieldDaily.com and cannot be reproduced, rewritten or redistributed
without the expressed written permission of Edgefield Daily.com
JAM Straight Customs
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