South Carolina may not be getting much attention amid the national focus on Tuesday’s midterm elections, but there are plenty of reasons for people locally and around the state to be interested in casting ballots.
With Rep. James Smith as the gubernatorial nominee, Democrats are hoping to break the GOP’s 20-year hold on the Governor’s Mansion. He faces incumbent Republican Henry McMaster, who moved from lieutenant governor to governor when Nikki Haley left office to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
While the turnout numbers from June’s primaries alone indicate a big mountain for Smith to climb in terms of total votes in a state that has been solidly Republican since the 1990s, the Afghan war veteran is considered the best hope of any Democrat since Jim Hodges was elected in 1998. McMaster, however, has the backing of President Donald Trump in a state where the president remains popular and key voting areas of the state are GOP bastions.
Democrats have challengers to Republican incumbents in three other statewide races: attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. Only the attorney general’s race has a high profile, with Constance Anastopoulo an underdog against Alan Wilson.
Republican S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers of Bowman faces challengers from the United Citizens and Green parties.
All voters will decide on a state constitutional amendment that would change the superintendent of education’s position from elected to appointed by the governor in 2023.
Locally, voters have key issues as well as candidates on the ballots.
While Orangeburg Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter and Jerry Govan, and Calhoun-Orangeburg Rep. Russell Ott each has Republican opposition, history is not on the side of the challengers. Cobb-Hunter been has re-elected every two years since 1992 and Govan has been in the Legislature since 1993. Ott has won election three times.
In Orangeburg County, the most interest Tuesday may be in races for seats on the new board that will govern the countywide school district beginning next year.
Seven seats will be decided by voters based on the County Council district in which they reside. There are four candidates in County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright Sr.’s District 1, two in Councilman Johnny Ravenell’s District 2, three in Councilman Harry Wimberly’s District 3, three in Councilman Heyward Livingston’s District 4, three in Vice Chair Janie Cooper Smith’s District 5, four in District 6 (the seat currently held by Ray Sabalis but for which Democratic nominee Deloris Frazier is unopposed on Tuesday) and three in Councilman Willie B. Owens’ District 7.
Two more school board seats will be filled on an at-large basis with all Orangeburg County voters making the choices. There are six candidates in District 8 and four in District 9.
Beyond Calhoun County voters’ decision in the S.C. House District 93 race pitting Ott against Terry Kiser Sr., voters will decide on three major issues via referendum.
1. Whether to approve over-the-counter sale of beer and wine at grocery and convenience stores on Sundays.
2. Whether to approve the sale of alcohol by the drink at bars and restaurants on Sundays.
3. Whether to approve a one-cent sales tax to fund capital projects for the next seven years. A list of the projects is included on the ballot.
With veteran Calhoun Council Chairman David Summers having said he and council members have not experienced much negative reaction to putting all three questions before voters, there seems every likelihood voters will approve, the same as has been the case with all three issues previously in Orangeburg County. Calhoun County businesses are at a competitive disadvantage without the alcohol sales. And short of a property tax increase, the only way to fund the infrastructure projects listed on the ballot is the penny tax.
Bamberg County voters also will decide on the penny for infrastructure projects and whether to renew the tax for a second seven-year cycle. A list of the projects is included on the ballot.
All Calhoun and Bamberg voters, and most in Orangeburg County, will cast ballots in the 6th District race for Congress in which Democratic incumbent James Clyburn is being challenged by the GOP’s Gerhard Gressman and Bryan Pugh of the Green Party. Some in western Orangeburg County will vote in the 2nd District race between GOP incumbent Joe Wilson and Democrat Sean Carrigan.
A number of other seats will be filled by unopposed candidates in all three counties, making for full ballot on Election Day. We urge all eligible voters to take the time to be a part of Tuesday’s decision-making. It’s important.