TV ads put twist in Dorchester council race
The volume is cranking up in one of the testier election races in Dorchester County.
County Council District 4 incumbent Larry Hargett, the current council chairman, is running a series of more than 50 television advertisements.
It’s an unusual step for a Lowcountry county council candidate, but not unprecedented.
Hargett conceded that the move is pre-emptive on his part, expecting a last-minute push from his opponent, John Hull, before the Tuesday primary election.
He’s not mistaken. Hull said Thursday that he is launching a phone bank targeting the Republican base of his church and his conservative 9-12 group.
Local candidates advertising on television still is relatively new to the Lowcountry, but maybe not for long.
It can give an important edge to any candidate in a tough fight. More candidates find themselves facing single-issue opposition or potential voting blocs, such as the 9-12 group. Peggy Moseley, the embattled Charleston County auditor, is making a pitch on TV in her race against David Engelman and Paul Gawryth.
There’s no one media outlet anymore, said Jeri Cabot, College of Charleston adjunct political science professor whose academic expertise includes South Carolina politics and the media.
Television ads are “just part of the calculation you make as a candidate — Twitter, Facebook, website, newspaper and television,” she said. “You’ve just got to figure your audience is segmented, by age, interests and dominant issue. If you’ve got the bucks these days, it makes perfect sense.”
Hargett and Hull are running for the council District 4 seat that represents suburban Oakbrook in the Wescott Plantation area along Dorchester Road.
“When you feel you need extra help, you do things like this,” Hargett said, “get the word out about helping people.”
His ads are endorsements from people such as North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and a resident of the rural Clubhouse community, for whom Hargett interceded after she appeared before council to say she had been falsely arrested following a neighbor’s complaint.
The company handling Hargett’s media, VIP Marketing, also handled Summey’s last campaign.
Hargett would not say how much he spent on the ads, only that it wasn’t too large an amount of money. He will document the spending in the campaign financing report he submits after the election, he said.
Hull was “quite surprised” when he saw one of the ads on television, he said. “I wish I had his war chest.”
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on Twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.