By Bobby Bryant, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Early in the morning on Election Day Nov. 5, Curtis Boyd posted a message on his Facebook page about how his day began.
“God started me off today with a beautiful message from a friend,” Boyd wrote. “Then I walk out the house to see God’s soldiers, the Darlington and Hartsville F3 (fitness) group, stop and pray with me this morning. Now a pastor called me and prayed for me.”
By 8:45 that night, Boyd had been elected the new mayor of Darlington.
Boyd, an athlete and owner of a chain of Fitness World gyms in eight cities, defeated Gloria Hines, Darlington’s first black and first female mayor, with 58 percent of the vote, a solid win that avoided the runoff election most people had expected.
Hines, a cosmetologist and longtime council member who was elected mayor in 2015, finished the race with 622 votes (32 percent) to Boyd’s 1,134 votes. Another challenger seeking the mayor’s seat, City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Bruce, received 195 votes (10 percent). Bruce, who also was running to keep her at-large seat on council, lost that race as well.
Two other council members, Bryant Gardner and John Milling, were re-elected to their at-large seats. The fight for Bruce’s council seat now goes to a Nov. 19 runoff between newcomers Howard Nettles and Ernest Boston.
Boyd’s energetic campaign officially began in April and didn’t stop until Election Day, with supporters driving vehicles towing “Boyd” election signs around the city until nearly the last minute. Boyd spent at least $11,485 on his campaign, most of that his own money, according to campaign disclosure reports he filed with the State Ethics Commission. (Hines reported spending at least $4,358, almost none of that her own funds.)
“I just want to say thank you,” Boyd told the News & Press. “I’m more than humbled by the support and love that’s been shown by everybody. We prayed for these numbers and God gave us above and beyond what we asked for. … I’m looking forward to going to work.”
Asked if he could point out one thing he did that was key to winning the election, Boyd said: “I would say if I had a single thing, it was putting God first. I left it in God’s hands and He led me in the right direction.”
Boyd’s 58 percent finish indicates that he must have won over a number of black voters who otherwise would have supported Hines or Bruce. Boyd said he had no specifics of how his victory broke down in terms of black and white voters. “I had people from all races supporting me,” he said.
Hines, in an interview with the News & Press immediately after the votes were counted, said of her loss: “It is what it is. Ain’t nothing I can do about it. … You know what? I made peace with God. And I told God, ‘Whatever it is, whatever it is.’ I’m going to be all right.”
But Hines also accused Boyd of buying votes and questioned whether he actually was living inside the city limits.
“I think there’s some things – he paid some people to vote,” Hines said. “It’s all over Facebook and everything. … Five dollars apiece. I didn’t pay anybody. … I don’t believe in buying people. I’ve never bought anybody. So if he bought people and they voted for him, so be it.”
Hines also questioned Boyd’s residency in the city limits. “He has a house in the city, and pretending that he’s living there, but he’s really not. … He’s got so many cars (there), nobody knows whether he’s staying there or not.”
The mayor also criticized her other challenger, Bruce, for allegedly breaking an agreement not to run against Hines in 2019. “She did the wrong way, too,” Hines said.
“ … Four years ago, I told her I wanted two terms, and when I finished my two terms, I’d help her get in (as mayor). But she disobeyed that. She went the other way. I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything to her.”
Boyd emphatically denied Hines’ allegations. “I didn’t pay anyone to vote for me,” he said. “It’s ridiculous for her to even bring that up.” He said that an anonymous Facebook user started that rumor. As for his residency, Boyd said that he owns a home in the city and in the county, but that his legal residence is inside the city limits. He described Hines’ comments as stirring controversy for the sake of stirring controversy and said, “Darlington needs a breath of fresh air.”
Bruce also denied that she had broken any deal with Hines. “She’s not telling the truth,” Bruce said. Bruce said that in 2015, she had originally been considering a run for mayor, but that Hines asked Bruce not to run against her. “She said, ‘If you let me run this time, next time I will support you (for mayor).’” After getting advice from others, Bruce said, she ruled out a mayor’s race, accepted Hines’ promised support for 2019, and ran successfully for an at-large council seat.
This summer, after Bruce announced she was challenging Hines for mayor, Bruce said that Hines asked to see her. According to Bruce, Hines brought up their 2015 agreement, but cast it as an agreement to leave Hines unchallenged for two terms as mayor. “I never agreed to that,” Bruce said. “And I never would have agreed to that. … SHE broke the agreement” made in 2015.
As far as last week’s city elections, Bruce said wryly, “I was hoping for a different result.” She thanked her supporters and said she accepts the citizens’ choices. “As long as I’m living in Darlington, I will be a supporter of the city of Darlington,” Bruce said.
Also in the Nov. 5 elections, City Council member Bryant Gardner received 1,017 votes and council member John Milling received 980 votes to win re-election to their seats.
Gardner and Milling expressed their gratitude to all the voters who turned out to support them. “I appreciate their efforts and their votes more than they will ever know, and I look forward to having the opportunity to serve again for the next four years,” said Milling.
“I concur,” added Gardner. “Thank you so much to the voters for getting out and showing their support.”
In addition to the Darlington city races, three other municipalities in the county held elections Nov. 5.
In Hartsville, Bryson Sparks Caldwell, Johnny Andrews and Bobby McGee were elected to City Council seats without opposition.
In Lamar, two members of Town Council, Inez Bess Lee and Angele White-Bradley, were re-elected to their at-large seats, defeating challengers Danielle Todd-Wilkes and Nat Williams.
And in Society Hill, Town Council member Deborah Harrell was re-elected to her at-large seat and newcomer Chuck Baker was elected to an at-large seat. Candidates Melissa Burch and Scott Dixon lost their bids for council seats.
Staff Writer Samantha Lyles contributed to this report.