County elects new sheriff; Senator fends off a close challenger
By Bobby Bryant
Darlington County voters elected a new sheriff and nearly shut out a powerful state senator in the Nov. 3 general election – balloting that set records for both total turnout and early voting.
Democratic nominee James Hudson Jr. will be the county’s sheriff beginning in January, after he defeated GOP nominee Michael August 49.3 percent to 45.2 percent in unofficial returns. Supporters of current sheriff Tony Chavis, who lost the Democratic nomination in June, ran a write-in campaign for him that captured about 5 percent of the vote.
Democratic state Sen. Gerald Malloy of Hartsville, arguably the county’s most powerful politician, lost Darlington County to GOP rival J.D. Chaplin, a Hartsville farmer in his 20s who has never held office. According to unofficial returns, Chaplin won 51.8 percent of the Darlington County vote, to Malloy’s 48.5 percent.
But Malloy’s district represents parts of other neighboring counties as well, and those voters boosted Malloy to victory. In Marlboro County, Malloy won an estimated 5,792 votes, and in Lee County, an estimated 3,512 votes.
Final (but unofficial) totals have Malloy winning re-election by 53 percent in districtwide voting.
In the night’s only upset of an incumbent Darlington County official, Republican Angie L. Suggs defeated Democratic county auditor Margaret R. Rogers 52.4 percent to 47.5 percent, according to unofficial returns. (Suggs is married to county Clerk of Court Scott Suggs, who was re-elected without opposition.)
In the election’s only contested race for Darlington County School Board, District 6 incumbent Charles Govan defeated challenger Adell “Coffee” McManus-McCoy by a 2-1 margin to win re-election.
Hudson could not immediately be reached for comment by the News & Press, but he told the (Florence) Morning News: “It was a hard fight, and I took a lot of criticism.”
Despite losing to Hudson, August said he hopes the sheriff-elect “does a great job.” August said he ran for sheriff because he felt the Sheriff’s Office “lacked integrity” under Chavis. Now that the Chavis administration is ending, August said that he is confident Hudson will be able to improve things.
In the local Senate race, Malloy said he is proud of his Senate record – he is entering his 6th term – and proud of the race he ran. The election went “pretty much as I expected,” he said, noting that he lost in Darlington County once before, in 2002. He indicated that party lines were a factor in Chaplin’s Election Day performance.
“My family and I are grateful to all the people of this area for turning out and having their voices heard in these challenging times,” Malloy said. “We are proud of the fact that we stayed positive and ran a positive campaign.”
Chaplin, on his Facebook campaign page, wrote: “Well, things didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. We gave it all we had. But in the end we came up short.”
Chaplin congratulated Malloy on his victory and added: “While the campaign is now over, the problems confronting our state and country still remain. And I remain committed to working with you to solve them.”
Like contests all across the country, the Nov. 3 elections were marked by a massive amount of early voting – either “in-person” absentee votes or votes cast by mail. An estimated 1.3 million S.C. voters already had cast their ballots before Election Day, officials said.
In Darlington County, officials estimated that 18,835 votes were cast before Election Day — 15,118 “in-person” absentee ballots and 3,717 ballots cast by mail. Another 13,808 ballots were cast on Election Day. That’s a total of 32,643 ballots cast in Darlington County for the general election – a stunning 67 percent voter turnout.
And the county did set new records for both early voting and total turnout, according to Darlington County elections chief Hoyt Campbell.
NO COMPETITION: In several races, candidates had no competition except for write-ins, and a number of incumbents were whisked to re-election. Those uncontested races included:
FOURTH CIRCUIT SOLICITOR: Incumbent Democrat Will Rogers.
DARLINGTON COUNTY CLERK OF COURT: Incumbent Democrat Scott Suggs.
DARLINGTON COUNTY CORONER: Incumbent Democrat J. Todd Hardee.
DARLINGTON COUNTY TREASURER: Incumbent Republican Jeff Robinson.
DARLINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT 1: Republican nominee Angie Stone Godbold won with 97 percent of the vote. She defeated incumbent councilman Bobby Kilgo for the nomination in the June primaries.
SOIL AND WATER DISTRICT COMMISSION: Thomas Chaplin (nonpartisan).
DARLINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 2: The death of incumbent board member Connell Delaine in October made this essentially a one-man race, and the win went to Delaine’s challenger Lucas W. Reed of Mechanicsville with 40 percent of the vote. Three people attempted write-in campaigns for the seat after news of Delaine’s death: Carl Goodson got 323 votes; Denise Douglas, 97; Lillie Foxe, 15. Delaine himself got more than 800 votes, said Campbell, even though elections officials posted notices at polling places saying that he was deceased.
DARLINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 4: Incumbent board chairman Warren Jeffords.
DARLINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD DISTRICT 8: Incumbent Jamie Morphis.
DARLINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT 3: Joyce Wingate Thomas.
DARLINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT 5: Le Flowers.