Gloria Hines by ten for Darlington Mayor

Members of the Darlington County Elections and Registrations Board examined and counted provisional ballots. See more photos of runoff election on	Photo by Samantha Lyles

Members of the Darlington County Elections and Registrations Board examined and counted provisional ballots. See more photos of runoff election on Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

City of Darlington residents hit the voting booths again Tuesday, November 17 for a runoff election to decide on three new city council members and a new mayor, but the evening ended with more uncertainty as the mayoral election ended in a dead heat.

Mayoral candidates Jim Stone and Gloria Hines each received 814 votes, triggering an automatic examination of any challenge ballots on Thursday morning and a full recount on Friday at the Darlington County Elections and Registrations office at 131 Cashua Street in Darlington.

Darlington Mayor Elect Gloria Cheeseboro Hines . Photo by Samantha Lyles

Darlington Mayor Elect Gloria Cheeseboro Hines .
Photo by Samantha Lyles

Hoyt Campbell, director of Darlington County Elections and Registrations, said if the vote total remains unchanged, another election will be held to decide the race.

In the city council contest, candidate Carolyn Bruce was the only clear winner, garnering 893 votes. The next three candidates were separated by just six votes: John Milling received 846 votes, Diane Sigmon received 842 votes, and Bryant Gardner received 840 votes. If these results stand through the challenge ballot and recount process, the top three candidates – Bruce, Milling, and Sigmon – would take the three available at-large council seats.

As the vote totals were announced, mayoral candidate and current Darlington City Council member Gloria Hines waited just outside the ballot counting room. She said her high spirits were not dampened by the results.

“I’m just thanking God we got that far. We did a great job and I had an excellent team, they couldn’t have done a better job. Now we just wait until Thursday and see,” said Hines.

Asked if the results hold and a third election is triggered, Hines said she felt up to the challenge.

“We’ll do the same thing all over again. My team is ready to go,” she said.

Retired Darlington fire chief Jim Stone waited for election results at a C’Boan’s restaurant with family and friends. Upon learning of the tie, he expressed gratitude to voters and – like Hines – said he would persist until a winner is clearly declared.

“I’m thrilled that this many people came out. I wish that more would have voted, but we had over 1,600 votes and that’s about as many as we had in the November 3rd election,” said Stone. “I’m so appreciative of all the people that did vote for me and I hope they continue to support me because I’m in it to win it.”

The candidates had two more hurdle to clear before the final results were known: a review of provisional ballots and challenged ballots, and a mandatory recount.

The Darlington County Board of Elections met the morning of Thursday, November 19, to count those provisional ballots for voters who did not cast their ballots at their registered City of Darlington precincts in the Nov. 17 runoff election.

Mayoral candidates Gloria Cheeseboro Hines and Jim Stone – who were tied at 814 votes each – received an additional 14 votes and 4 votes respectively, placing Hines on top by ten. Her final total was 828 votes, with 818 cast for Stone.

City Council candidates Carolyn Bruce, John Milling, Diane Sigmon, and Bryant Gardner were vying for three at-large seats, with the top three vote-getters winning office. While each candidate added to their previous vote count, several key provisional ballots fell in Gardner’s favor and allowed him to leapfrog Sigmon and land in third place.

The final council vote totals were as follows:
Carolyn Bruce – 907 (previously 893)
John Milling – 851 (previously 846)
Bryant Gardner – 847 (previously 840)
Diane Sigmon – 845 (previously 842)

Though some present challenged the validity of provisional ballots mailed by registered voters living outside Darlington, the board opted to exclude only those persons who are currently registered to vote in other cities.

Cheers erupted from Hines’ supporters as the final tally was announced. Stone and his wife offered congratulations to Hines and thanked all those who supported his candidacy. At a short press conference afterward, Hines – set to become the city’s first African-American mayor – vowed to work hard for all the citizens of Darlington.

“I just want to thank everyone that came out to vote for me. I won’t let you down. I’ll do a great job for Darlington because this is my hometown and we will make it back the Pearl of the Pee Dee,” said Hines.

Election results were reviewed a final time in a recount at 5 pm, Nov. 19, after which the results were certified and final.
Following the recount, city councilmen elect John Milling and Bryant Gardner said they were eager to get to work, with Milling focused on improving infrastructure and Gardner noting that the election highlighted a lingering racial divide that must be addressed if Darlington is to move forward and become a progressive city.

When Hines and the new council members are sworn in at City Council’s January meeting, the city will begin the process of finding a new representative to fill Hines’ council spot. A special election for that seat will be held thirteen weeks after Hines is sworn in as mayor.

Author: Duane Childers

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