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County Council Seat 4 Up for Grabs in November?
A Column by the Editor
web posted June 25, 2012
COLUMN – As things sit right now, area
builder Tracy Freeman will walk unopposed into the district 4 county
council seat left open by long-time County Councilman Willie Bright
deciding not to run. However, this is no ordinary election year with
challengers being kicked off the primary and November ballots due to
errant paperwork at the time of filing, and District 4 may have a new
twist no one saw coming.
Originally Freeman was to face Betty Butler in the Democrat Primary
earlier this month. Butler was kicked off the ballot following a ruling
on the candidate's proper procedure to file for office. With Butler out
there was no primary for the seat, and no Republican stepped up to
file, leaving Freeman as the assured winner in November barring any
bizarre turn of events.
Well, welcome to bizarre-ville.
Political insiders in the Bettis Academy area began sending emails and
making phone calls to Edgefield Daily stating that Dist. 4 County
Councilman Willie Bright has distributed a letter seeking help
obtaining signatures so he could file as a petition candidate for the
November election. Mr. Bright denies he has distributed any such
letter, but he did not deny a possible petition run.
"I've thought about it," Councilman Bright said, adding that he is
keeping his options open depending on the outcome of a decision by Mr.
Freeman. According to Bright, there is a "pretty clear" conflict of
interest should Freeman win the election due to his position
board of trustees at Francis Marion University.
Mr. Freeman confirmed the possible conflict due to both seats, that at
FMU and the County Council, being positions of honor and would most
likely be duel office holding - which is illegal. Freeman said he is
awaiting an opinion from the State Ethics Commission on the matter and
has not decided to drop out of the Dist 4 County Council race at this
If elected, Freeman would have to resign one of the seats. He was
elected to the Board at FMU in 2010 and represents the Third
Congressional District, seat 5. The decision Freeman has to make will
most likely come sooner than later even though he is not required to
decide until the November election results are certified.
In the event that Freeman chooses to stay on the board at FMU, he will
have to back out of the Dist. 4 County Council race if he knows he will
resign the seat upon election, causing a special election to be held.
That would leave no candidate filed for the November general election
for the district save a write-in candidate or candidates.
However, if he makes the decision now to drop out of the race, petition
candidates could still muster a last minute petition drive to collect
the necessary signatures to get on the ballot. According to the
Edgefield County Voter Registration Office, there are 2,871 registered
voters in the district. A candidate is required to get 5% of them, or
144, to sign the petition.
Freeman said last week he would return my call after speaking only
briefly on the choices he is facing, but has not done so as of this
The fact that Mr. Bright confirmed he is thinking about running as a
petition candidate gives rise to the question of whether or not others
will follow suit. Betty Butler, who was removed from the Democrat
primary ballot, already has the organization of supporters in place to
collect the needed signatures to get back on the November ballot as
That could bring another interesting twist if a Republican candidate
makes a petition run. Dist. 4 is basically a toss-up district depending
on voter turnout and with two Democrats running they would spilt the
Democrat vote. That would be a big gift to a Republican running as a
petition candidate who would almost certainly take the seat.
Of course, nothing will happen until Mr. Freeman makes the decision on
which seat he plans to serve - a decision he should have made prior to
filing his candidacy.
Freeman needs to do something soon in order to give the people of
District 4 a choice of potential candidates. Otherwise, if he backs out
next month after Bright collects the needed signatures, it could appear
he would be trying to assure Bright an uncontested election to retain
It is notable that Bright is the County Council member who appointed
Freeman to serve on the Edgefield County Planning Commission. Another
position Freeman would have to resign if elected.
I have no doubt that Freeman would be an asset to the Edgefield County
Council if he chooses to serve if elected. That makes the whole
situation that much more prickly.
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