Light turnout Tuesday, but more politicking to come
The political activity in Tuesday’s primaries wasn’t confined to the inside of the voting booth.
In a South Carolina election season defined by hundreds of candidates who tried to run but were tossed off the ballot, a few tried to reignite their campaigns by approaching voters at their polling places.
It was slow-going, as occasional rain, relatively few local races and a lack of a high-profile statewide contest kept turnout light.
Mark Whisenant, who tried to run for Charleston County sheriff as a Democrat but was declared ineligible last month, had about 30 volunteers collecting signatures and had more than 1,000 by 5 p.m.
While the primaries were quiet, petition candidates like Whisenant could keep the political scene more lively up to the July 16 deadline for collecting their signatures.
These candidates need signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in their district or county — or 10,000 signatures, whichever is fewer — to get on the ballot this fall.
“We’re going to drive forward and keep a positive attitude,” he said.
State law requires new candidates to file statements of economic interests both online and by paper, but not even party officials understood the proper procedure — and that led to almost 250 candidates being declared ineligible since May. “I think it’s the ultimate incumbent-protection action,” voter Don Tomlin said.
Wally Burbage, a Charleston businessman who tried to run as a Republican for Senate District 41, announced he also plans to wage a petition campaign. However, he did not have volunteers trying to get signatures at polling places.
“It was such light turnout, I didn’t think it would be a good use of my people’s time,” he said. “It was pathetic, the turnout.”
John Steinberger, another Republican declared ineligible for the Senate 41 race, concentrated his efforts Tuesday in Dorchester County, where Republicans had a sheriff and County Council primaries.
Steinberger said he collected 480 signatures, mostly at Beech Hill Elementary School outside Summerville.
Statewide, the turnout seemed destined to fall well below the roughly 625,000 who voted in the 2010 mid-year primaries, or even the 425,000 who voted in the June 2008 primaries.
More than 30,000 cast ballots in the June 2008 primaries in Charleston County.
In addition to Sen. Mike Rose of Summerville, at least five other legislators lost their bid for re-election, including the longest-serving member of the House and a Senate chairman.
Rep. Denny Neilson was defeated by Rep. Robert Williams in a face-off to represent Darlington, according to The Associated Press. Neilson has served in the Legislature since 1984.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman David Thomas, R-Greenville, was in the most crowded primary race of any incumbent, with four GOP opponents. He lacked enough votes to get into the primary run-off, coming in third.
Rep. Bill Bowers defeated Rep. Curtis Brantley to represent rural Jasper and Hampton counties. Others who lost include five-term Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, and two-term Rep. Steve Parker, R-Boiling Springs.