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Handicapping the 2012 Local Elections

A Column by the Editor
web posted July 23, 2012

COLUMN – With the political winds taking a difficult to understand direction this year with potential candidates put on the ballot, taken off the ballot, and then turning to petitions to be placed back on - how things will turn out is anyone's guess. However, looking at past elections, some petition candidates stand a reasonable chance of upsetting their challenger.

To be clear, this is a statistical opinion based on past elections when particular candidates are opposed. This is not a promotion of any given candidate.

The top county election is that between Edgefield County Sheriff Adell Dobey and former Magistrate Davis Parkman. For the sake of the calculations, it is assumed that Parkman will be certified as a petition candidate. Sheriff Dobey retains a huge advantage as he has defeated well qualified Republican candidates in near landslide results in 2000 and 2004.

In 2004, Sheriff Dobey took 67.61% of the vote in a solid Republican county compared to 32.36% for former SLED Agent Dan Choate, a life-long law enforcement officer. The Merriwether district went to Choate 58.47% to Dobey's 41.53%. Dobey swept 10 other precincts by an average of 78% leaving Choate with just two marginal wins in Merriwether and Westide - which also added to Dobey's total vote count.

During the Republican swarm of the national elections in 2010 (local as well) 43% of Republicans voted a straight ticket. If the straight ticket voter remains as constant as in the past three election cycles, Parkman will miss out on those votes and will see a predicted landslide loss to Sheriff Dobey of over 70%.

The second most watched race will be between Dist. 1 County Councilman Norman Dorn and William "Bill" Smith. Though Dorn remains in a solid Democrat based district by population, population does not also convert to voters. With the 79% voter turnout in 2008, Dorn overtook challenger Trace Faust by only 377 votes. Dorn squeaked by a primary challenge by Albert Talbert by a mere 18 votes. And the district lines have since changed.

Now that the district has moved to encompass a large portion of the Town of Edgefield, Dorn may see a unique set of voters he has never had to try to sway to vote for him.

When challenged in 2008, Dorn took 1,498 votes compared to Faust's 1,121 and in 2010 Dorn could only muster 1,303 votes when unchallenged. Granted, Smith will have to contend with Republican's voting a straight ticket as in 2010 (43% county-wide). However, Republican's in Dist. 1 have always turned out when there is a challenger to Dorn and with Republicans more energized than Democrats and more Democrats willing to vote a "split ticket" that leaves the race a virtual toss up with the advantage still towards Dorn.

That slight margin could be overcome by a strong grassroots campaign by Smith. 

County Council Dist. 4 is in un-chartered waters this year. Long time incumbent Willie Bright did not choose to file as a Democrat and Edgefield County Planning Commissioner Tracy Freeman got the sole slot on the ballot as a Democrat. However, as information of conflicting "dual office" problems arose due to Freeman sitting on the Board of Directors at Francis Marion University, he is expected to drop out of the race before November.

Councilman Willie Bright and former county councilwoman Betty Butler have certified as petition candidates in the race in a district which sees a sporadic voter turnout. In a virtual "toss up" district by population after the redistricting, a solid write-in candidate could benefit from a split in the Democrat vote and walk away with the seat.

The Trenton precinct votes heavily as a Democrat straight ticket voter population. That would further limit Bright or Butler in obtaining a large portion of the vote. If no write-in candidate surfaces, the seat will be a toss up between Bright and Butler. If a write in Republican candidate does announce, the advantage would go towards them in an estimated 5% margin.

With no write in candidate the advantage goes to Bright by 7%.

The Dist. 3 county council race is less of a challenge to handicap. With a virtual unknown in George Attaway being certified as a petition candidate against Republican Dean Campbell, Attway has a huge hill to climb. Campbell took the long time Democrat held seat by Monroe Kneece after he stepped down by a 4 point margin in 2010 over challenger Frank Nicholson. Campbell previously served as Mayor of Johnston and Nicholson as councilman.  

With redistricting taking place last year, Attaway is a long shot to unseat Campbell.

For all past articles please visit our Archives

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