Charleston County Council elections are partisan but when it comes to picking a chairman the party lines can fade away.
Five Charleston County Council Democrats elected Republican Elliott Summey as their leader Tuesday night.
Three other GOP Council members supported another candidate.
"That is interesting," said Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the Department of Political Science at the College of Charleston.
The situation reflects the nonpartisan nature of many local issues such as zoning, land use, potholes and trash pick-up. National issues are more subject to political spin.
"Maybe party is a little less meaningful and there's more of a willingness to work with the other side," Knotts said.
Summey, a former Democrat, switched parties in 2012.
"On the local level, party affiliation doesn't really matter that much," he said.
Poor drainage because of a clogged ditch isn't a Republican or Democratic issue. A constituent just wants the problem fixed, he said.
Summey said that he joined the GOP because of a National Labor Relations Board complaint lodged against Boeing.
"They tried to go after our Boeing plant," he said.
The NLRB had charged Boeing with illegally retaliating against a machinists union for previous strikes by opening the Boeing plant in North Charleston. The NLRB later withdrew the complaint.
In the vote Tuesday, Republican Council members Dickie Schweers, Joe Qualey and Herb Sass supported Sass for chairman.
Sass said that he thought he could do a good job as chairman but Summey is qualified, too.
"I would have liked to be chairman. Obviously there's time if my fellow Council members want me to be chairman," he said.
Sass and four other Council members were sworn-in to four-year terms on Tuesday night. The chairman is elected annually.
"I'm not losing any sleep over it. My heart is not broken. I have no problem working with any of my fellow Council members," Sass said.
Teddie Pryor, who served as Council chairman for six years, stepped down Tuesday from the position to give someone else a chance to lead.
Pryor, a Democrat, works for North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who is a Republican.
"Me and Teddie are great friends. We are going to be riding in the MLK parade together Sunday. I am very proud of both of them. I look forward to seeing what Elliot does next year," Keith Summey said.
Reporter Brenda Rindge contributed to this story.