SUMMERVILLE — The Republican Party is the dominant political party in Dorchester County, and it’s becoming a crowd — with groups like the tea party, Summerville 9-12 Project and now the “Realtor party.”

The real estate party launched an intense, well-funded drive of calls, brochures and events to try to sway public support for the county local option sales tax referendum that failed on Nov. 5.

The effort also failed to win support from the county party in a pitched battle with anti-tax groups. Tempers flared and accusations were made.

The rift leaves the various groups acting more like political parties of their own, and that’s trouble for county Republicans.

“They do more than just advocate issues,” said former state senator Mike Rose, one of the leaders of the anti-tax effort, about the Realtor party. “They infiltrate various local governments with their hand-picked candidates. They don’t admit they are a political party. They don’t register as a political party. But they act like a political party.”

The local Realtor party is an offshoot of a National Association of Realtors’ effort to get real estate companies more engaged in political issues they see as affecting their businesses.

It is funded separately from, but operates alongside, a national association action committee that contributes to candidates.

The “party” is paid for by a percentage of annual fees to belong to the association.

Ryan Castle, government affairs director for the Trident Association of Realtors, called it a marketing concept.

“I wouldn’t classify it as a political party,” said Gerald Allen, the national association’s managing director of campaign services. “It’s an advocate. It’s really just an effort to involve our members in the political process.”

Meanwhile, the county party now is composed of an unmatched set of we’re-not-a-political-party groups that divides even its executive board.

“It’s kind of an unique problem, I suppose,” said Jordan Bryngelson, county GOP chairman. Among the real estate interests, “a lot of them are the new movers and shakers in the area,” he said. Among the anti-tax, limited-government groups are a lot of the traditional county Republicans.

“I’m sure the primary coming up will be heated, but I expect (the groups) to come together behind the victorious candidate,” he said.

Asked if there is concern that the real estate interests might leave the Republicans to form their own party, he said, “As chairman, I would think that the very conservative groups would be closer to forming their own party. They’re a lot closer to it. The business sector people are just better funded.”

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