Throughout his re-election campaign, Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis maintained that he was running on his record.
On Tuesday, that seemed to have been his undoing in the Berkeley County runoff election between him and Moncks Corner Mayor Bill Peagler.
Peagler unseated Davis, taking 56 percent of the vote to Davis' 44 percent. In the primary, Davis had 45 percent of the vote; Peagler, 39 percent; and Jerry Beckley, 16 percent. Beckley threw his support behind Peagler the day after the primary.
The primary winner has no Democratic opposition in the general election.
During his campaign, Davis pointed to improvements in the county's fiscal health, growth in economic development and the success of the penny sales tax road improvement program as his achievements.
But members of the Republican party raised questions about the lack of funding for emergency services, who gets credit for the county's budget, and whether Davis was responsible for job creation.
Davis and Jack Schurlknight, who was in a runoff with James Law for the County Council District 6 seat, were targeted by a loosely organized local political group called RINO Hunt as being "Republican in Name Only," or RINOs.
The label follows a national trend, with Republican conservatives calling out fellow party members who they accuse of betraying constituents by compromising with Democrats, including South Carolina's U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
"Peagler's win was a clear message the voters wanted change," said Terry Hardesty, who stepped down Saturday as chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Party, citing a rift in the party that he believes was caused by the local election.
In recent weeks, the party's Facebook page has been the site of lots of disagreements that have included name calling, prompting Hardesty to issue a warning to posters on June 13.
When he stepped down, Hardesty also endorsed Peagler and James Law, who was in a runoff for the District 6 council seat with incumbent Jack Schurlknight. Schurlknight won the runoff by 65 votes.
"I certainly wanted change and I was not able to speak as chairman," he said.
County Councilman Tim Callanan, who is often at odds with Davis, also endorsed Peagler and Law.
"Ultimately, if folks want a change in direction, they're going to start at the top," he said Wednesday. "The supervisor wields a good amount of authority and power. He's the chairman of council, so this is going to affect the makeup and direction in which the county goes. If people voted for change, they expect some sort of change, but how that materializes, I guess, remains to be seen."
The council has often been sharply divided on issues, typically voting in two factions: Schurlknight often votes with the council's Democrats, Caldwell Pinckney and Steve Davis. Until two years ago, Bob Call also voted with that bloc.
On the other side are Callanan and councilmembers Cathy Davis, Philip Farley and Dennis Fish.
In those days, many votes ended in a tie, with Dan Davis casting the deciding vote, but in 2012, Ken Gunn defeated Call for the District 3 seat, shifting the power to the more conservative group.
This year's election could have seen another shift. Tommy Newell won the District 3 seat vacated by Cathy Davis, who did not seek re-election. Newell has steadfastly maintained he will vote on the issues and not with any particular side.
The conservatives hailed the runoff as a victory because, even if Newell votes with Schurlknight and the Democrats, it will create a tie, and Peagler will vote with the conservatives.
Peagler said his campaign gained momentum after the primary.
"If you added the votes cast for Mr. Beckley and me, that was a good indication that voters weren't really happy," he said. "We were just fortunate to make the runoff and the voters came through. There was more unity in the Republican party than I've seen in quite a while."
In the last two weeks, Peagler, who has served as Moncks Corner's nonpartisan mayor since 2005, spent a lot of time knocking on doors in Davis' backyard, the lower part of the county. It paid off as Daniel Island and areas around Hanahan and Goose Creek switched their allegiance to him in the runoff.
In the June 10 primary, Davis took 37 precincts to Peagler's 24. In the runoff, Davis' support dropped to 17 precincts and Peagler won 42. They tied in two.
"I tried to keep everything I did above board and deal with the issues," he said. "That's just the way I do business. That may have had some play in all of this."
Davis did not return calls or respond to emails Wednesday.
Peagler will step down as mayor and plans to close the private law firm he's had for 25 years.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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