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County Council races heating up

A Column by the Editor
web posted June 2, 2008
COLUMN – In nine days Edgefield County will learn if they have made history in the county council primary elections on June 10. Four of the five seats are challenged and three seats will be decided in the June 10 Primary, District 1 (Northside), District 3 (Johnston), and District 5 (Merriwether). District 1 will no doubt see a run-off election with three vying for the Republican nomination and former county councilman Albert Talbert is seeking to take out long time incumbent Norman Dorn in the Democratic race.

Who will win? What are the odds? Nobody knows for sure, but the “word on the street” says this will be a very exciting election.

District 1
On the Democrat ticket we find long time incumbent Norman Dorn squaring off against former county councilman Albert Talbert. Talbert, known as a consensus builder, is getting a leg up in the race from not only Democrats but Republicans as well. This two-edged sword cuts into the Republican race as well by taking votes from three candidates hoping to make it to the November election.

It seems Mr. Talbert is well on his way to garnering support from critical areas. There is also a contingent of Republicans that say they will cross over and vote in the Democrat Primary to unseat Norman Dorn, and then return to the Republican ticket in the November General Election. In addition, many hard-line Democrats are saying Dorn has to go. If some Republicans swap over in the primaries, that spells almost certain disaster for Norman Dorn’s chances for re-election.

On the Republican ticket we find newcomers Jeanette Cockrell and Trace Faust battling 20-year veteran Edgefield Town Councilman Bill Jackson for the nomination. Cockrell and Faust have broad support in the outlying parts of the district and seem to be digging into the downtown Edgefield Republican vote. That could spell trouble for Bill Jackson who needs to take Edgefield by a large margin to make it into the run-off.

Add into this the “spoiler” factor of Edgefield Attorney Greg Anderson running as a candidate for the 25th Senate District in the Democrat primary, which will draw a number of Republicans swapping over to vote in Anderson’s race and forcing them to vote Talbert or Dorn in the County Council Democrat race and those voting will no doubt vote Talbert, not Dorn.

District 2
But Norman Dorn is not the only person that will suffer from Republicans swapping over to vote for Mr. Anderson. District 2 County Council candidate Rodney Ashcraft, who took almost 30% in 2006 in a ten day write-in campaign against Everett Kitchens, will also be benefiting from Greg Anderson’s candidacy in this year’s election.

Ashcraft holds a strong following in the lower portion of the district and is gaining support in other areas. He needed to split the Edgefield vote to defeat incumbent Kitchens and every Republican vote that crosses over for Mr. Anderson in Edgefield will help to dilute the Republican vote in the primary for Kitchens. That will definitely play to Ashcraft’s advantage.

There is also a contingent of Edgefield Democrat voters in the district that are talking of voting in the Republican Primary. I would have never believed it if I had not attended “gatherings” of Democrat voters who are pushing the cross over. They claim Anderson will win the Senate Democrat Primary so their focus is on unseating Kitchens in June and return to vote for Anderson in November.

Whoever wins the District 2 primary on June 10 will be unopposed in the general election and will be your next representative.

District 3
18-year veteran County Council Chairman Monroe Kneece is facing a challenge from newcomer Jamie Rushton in the Democrat Primary for the seat. Kneece is taking this challenge serious. Being challenged before Kneece never bought signs or campaigned. He is doing both this year. This one is up in the air. Johnston politics are interesting and unpredictable, but the expanded third district could play in favor of Mr. Rushton.

Kneece has a strong voter base in the Johnston area, but over his 18-year tenure he has added to the number of his detractors there. With the district reaching westward almost to Edgefield, into the Town of Trenton and south almost bordering Bettis Academy, his base is diluted at a time voter resentment for incumbents has increased.

Add in the fact that there are no Republican candidates running in the district election, Republicans crossing over in the primary could have a huge effect on the outcome. The winner of the Democrat Primary will hold the seat next year.

District 5
Newcomer Genia Blackwell is taking on eight-year incumbent Joel Hudson in the Merriwether District in the Republican Primary. Although Hudson has the incumbent status, generally considered an advantage, large voting blocks are still angry over Hudson’s vote to uphold the huge increases in property assessments that disproportionately affected Merriwether two years ago. That unrest will reveal itself again in June. A full third of voters chose write-in candidate Dennis Zachow after a two-week campaign in 2006, and most have made their support for Blackwell known now. That leaves Mrs. Blackwell needing to garner less than 20% of the rest of the vote to unseat Hudson.

Though Mrs. Blackwell may be new to the political scene, her life long history in the community, extensive financial experience, and national recognition in the business world gives her the advantage when it comes to qualifications for the county council seat. This race could come down to voter turnout. An increase in voters would work to the advantage of Blackwell as increases in turnout are generally supported by those discontent with the current office holder.

The winner of the June 10 Primary will be unopposed in November making the June Primary the deciding election for the Merriwether seat.

District 4
Willie Bright is unopposed; he will be seated again in November save a write-in candidate.


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