Sheriff, councilman fall in primary; Chavis, Kilgo out in 2021 as challengers seize nominations
By Bobby Bryant
Darlington County Sheriff Tony Chavis and veteran County Councilman Bobby Kilgo lost their parties’ nominations for new terms in primary elections last week.
Democrat James Hudson Jr., a former Hartsville chief of police, won 56 percent of the June 9 primary vote, claiming his party’s nomination for sheriff in the November elections. Chavis, who is in his first term as sheriff, got 43 percent. In total numbers, Hudson got 4,159 votes to Chavis’ 3,198.
In the night’s other upset, political newcomer Angie Stone Godbold captured the GOP nomination for Darlington County Council’s District 1 seat, defeating incumbent councilman Kilgo by 64 percent to 35 percent (664 votes to Kilgo’s 363). Since no Democrat filed for the seat, her primary win means Godbold will represent District 1 starting in January.
“Forever grateful to you,” Godbold posted on her Facebook page after the vote. “Thank you for believing in me and my vision. The words are completely inadequate, but it’s all I got. You blew me away.”
In a phone interview, Godbold, daughter of the late Jim Stone, a 50-year firefighter in Darlington, said her winning margin was “more than I expected it to be.” She said: “These people wanted change. I do see a shift and I feel a shift in what Darlington wants. … Things have just been stagnant and still and not changing for the better.”
Kilgo said in a statement: “It has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Darlington County these past eight years. Many things have been accomplished in economic growth. That was my rallying cry in 2012 and still a desire today. … Best wishes to Mrs. Godbold and thank you, citizens of Darlington County.”
In the sheriff’s race, Hudson said voters were looking for change. “We felt confident from Day 1 we could win,” he said in a phone interview. “As it went on … our confidence grew.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on his campaign: “People were afraid to get out. Everybody didn’t open every door that you knocked on.”
Hudson, a patrol captain for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, said this was his first time running for office. He wished Chavis the best as his term concludes. “I think a lot of Sheriff Chavis. . . . I think Sheriff Chavis did the best he could with what he had.”
Chavis, in a phone interview, said: “We ran a good race. My opponent ran a good race. I know in my heart I will be leaving the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office a lot better than I found it.”
Chavis said the COVID-19 pandemic hurt voter turnout, even though the Legislature passed a temporary law allowing everyone to vote absentee this month because of the virus threat. (A little more than 3,200 county residents voted absentee in last week’s primaries; 1,765 were cast in person and 1,456 by mail.)
“The turnout was low compared to 2016,” Chavis said. “I think the virus had a lot to do with it. … People weren’t able to get out.”
At polling places throughout the state, poll workers wore face masks and sat behind specially constructed cardboard-and-plastic shields.
Chavis said he will support the Democratic nominee and will aid in the transition to a new sheriff, whoever it is. Hudson still must face GOP candidate Michael August in November.
(In a statement after the primaries, August said: “Sheriff Tony Chavis’ defeat means change is coming to the Sheriff’s Office. And anytime there is change, there are rumors and inaccurate speculation about what will happen next. But let me say this to the Sheriff’s Office staff … If you do your job well, your job will be safe in a Michael August administration.”)
The biggest win of the night in local elections – a 4-1 victory – belonged to J.D. Chaplin, a Hartsville farmer seeking the S.C. Senate seat now held by Gerald Malloy of Hartsville. Chaplin claimed the GOP nomination for the seat with 82 percent of the vote to 17 percent for rival Ronald Reese Page.
“I greatly appreciate the turnout; it was phenomenal; it was excellent,” said Chaplin. He told the News & Press that he believes the power of that Senate seat could better serve local interests.
“All politics are local politics. You want to know what affects us the most down here in Darlington, Marlboro, Chesterfield and Lee counties? It is our local politicians. For far too long – 18 years – we have had failed leadership up there in Columbia and now is our opportunity to take our counties back; now is our opportunity to change that,” Chaplin said.
In other June 9 races:
— Veteran Darlington County Councilman Le Flowers defeated challenger Joe Ard 59 percent to 40 percent to claim the GOP nomination for Flowers’ District 5 council seat. Since no Democrat filed for that seat, Flowers has effectively won re-election.
— In the Democratic primary for U.S. House District 7, state Rep. Robert Williams easily carried Darlington County, with 68 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Melissa Ward Watson and 4 percent for William “Cowboy” Williams. But in the congressional district overall, Watson appears to have claimed the nomination.
— In the Democratic primary for S.C. Senate District 36, which includes a portion of Darlington County, incumbent Kevin Johnson led challenger Eleazer Leazer Carter 76 percent to 23 percent.
— In the Democratic primary for S.C. House District 60, which includes a portion of Darlington County, Teresa McGill Cain led Lasha McClain 50 percent to 49 percent.
— In the GOP primary for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s seat, Graham easily carried Darlington County, with 80 percent of the vote.
— There were two advisory questions on Republican primary ballots for voters to answer. The first asked whether the state should let voters register by party; the second asked whether candidates should be limited to having their names appear only once on a ballot. In Darlington County, the first question got 87 percent support and the second, 79 percent support.
Staff Writer Samantha Lyles contributed to this report.