With Election Day quickly approaching, here’s a primer for West Ashley voters

by Bill Davis | News Editor

Research shows that Americans don’t pay attention to a political race until three weeks out from the election. Well … we’re down to one week before the Nov. 6 General Election. So think fast, and vote smart. Here is Cliff Notes look at what you will be voting on this month.

U.S. Congress, Dist. 1

The biggest contest on the ballot will be to take Mark Sanford’s 1st District spot in the U.S. Congress, with marine engineer Joe Cunningham (D) taking on state Rep. Katie Harrington, the politico that unseated Sanford in the Republican primary.

It’s been a bruising effort from the start for Arrington, literally, as she was involved in a life-threatening auto accident early on in the campaign. Arrington also surprised some of her colleagues in the state House with her willingness to go as hard as she did against Sanford, with both invoking the “T-word” at every turn.

Arrington, an avowed supporter of President Trump and a first-term state representative, has promised to end corruption in Washington, D.C., create jobs, invest in infrastructure, and protect the environment.

Her record of positions on that last plank, specifically offshore drilling, has opened the door for political newcomer Cunningham, a marine engineer, to land some blows. Cunningham charges that Arrington supported Trump’s position of lifting the ban on offshore drilling, only to shift back in the face of public outcry.

Arrington has countered that she has met face-to-face with Trump and told him she would oppose drilling off the coast, which includes Folly Beach. She’s also riled some with a recent statement to a coastline mayor that he was losing his “place at the table” by not getting on board with her campaign. She contends the comment was taken out of context.

Cunningham has surprised some in the Lowcountry with how tight he’s made a race tailor-gerrymandered for a Republican win, especially with the number of coastal mayors who support his candidacy.

Handsome, photogenic, and replete with top-notch commercials and media buys, Cunningham has a real shot of taking the seat if a blue wave shows up to vote in South Carolina.

Cunningham has kept the race closer than conventional wisdom says he should have been able. While he’s landed his best shots on the issue of offshore drilling, Cunningham also includes issues like ending political corruption, reducing healthcare costs, and protecting voting rights in his platform.

Both Cunningham and Arrington have attempted to paint the other as hopelessly under the thrall of the most radical elements in each other’s respective parties, while reality is they both live closer to the middle.

S.C. House Rep. Dist. 114

Incumbent Republican Lin Bennett may be too conservative for her Democratic challenger Dan Jones, but apparently not conservative enough for Libertarian candidate Melissa Couture.

Courture has staked out traditional libertarian positions on limiting government intrusion by supporting some marijuana legalization, and the reduction of regulations. She’s also standing for a reduced state Department of Education and more infrastructure planning.

Bennett has taken a surprisingly “inside baseball” position of fighting for the restoration of the state’s Local Government Fund as her primary pitch.

For years, the legislature fully allowed its runover funds to trickle down to smaller government organs, but that ended when the Great Recession hit. Making it worse, the state has limited some of the taxable items for counties, putting them in a double-bind.

That said, she’s also for infrastructure improvements and lower taxes, which don’t exactly line up (see: cost of 526 completion), and enhanced education for manufacturing jobs.

Her Democratic newcomer opposition Dan Jones has seen major amounts of state support for his industry, film, cut from state budgets over the years.

Jones, a gun owner, paints himself as a moderate, calling for “common sense” politics to replace the “divisiveness” dominating the current political culture, and solar as a partial solution for the stalled V.C. Sumner nuclear plants.

S.C. House Dist. 119

For the lack of a few votes, longtime local public servant state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D) would be mayor of Charleston. The race for his seat against newcomer Republican Paul Sizemore likely won’t be that close.

Sizemore doesn’t have the biggest campaign, and Stavrinakis serves on powerful committees in the legislature, like Ways and Means and Ethics, that local voters may be loath to remove him from.

Stavrinakis has repeatedly shown the ability to reach across the political aisle, especially when helping out the  legal defense of former Daniel Island GOP state legislator Jimmy Merrill who had been indicted on perjury charges in an ethics probe.

Probate Judge

Republican Irv Condon is facing opposition for the first time in nearly a quarter-century in Democrat Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley. While Condon is both a lawyer and a seated, award-winning judge, Ganaway-Pasley, a doctoral candidate, does not hold a law degree despite having served as a summary court judge for a dozen years.

Register of Deeds

This position replaces oversight of the Mesne Conveyance office. And the race for it contains an interesting choice for voters.

On one hand there is Republican Tom Hartnett, a political newcomer who has worked in real estate for decades and has direct contact with the office and its goals for years.

On the other hand, there is Michael Miller, who was not his party’s first choice for the race. Miller is a barber by trade, but has years of hard-won experience as a scrapper on the county School Board. Miller fought for and won the fight to rebuild Stono Park Elementary.

Both candidates’ platforms speak of streamlining and modernizing the property office, but leaves voters with an intriguing choice: the political newcomer or the property newcomer, and conversely the political veteran versus the property veteran.

Soil and Water District Conservation Commission

The non-partisan race for the chair of this commission will be the dirtiest race on the ballot because of … soil. Yes, a terrible joke, but all to say that both Hal Hanvey and Ford Walpole currently serve in appointed positions on the commission and are now running for its top, elected spot.

School Board

Votes for seats representing other parts of town may be as important as votes for the West Ashley seat. School Board elections are county wide, but seats can only be held by residents of specific districts.

That means that a longtime school district administrator getting elected to the West Ashley seat could be offset should 75 Calhoun foe from East Cooper wins that seat.

In West Ashley’s race, there is a bevy of choices, from former CCSD administrator and principal Paul Padron to longtime state servant Herbert Fielding, to incumbent pastor Eric Mack, to newcomer Francis Marion Beylotte III, who has taken to reusing the backsides of other’s past campaign signs for his spray-painted messages.

The biggest issues in this race — charter schools and discipline — bely the ongoing racial divide that has split the board in the past.

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