Attorney Jonathan Milling is set to be the newest member of the Richland School District One board of trustees.
Milling scored a resounding victory in a rare New Year's Eve special election for an at-large seat on the board. Milling notched 5,616 votes, followed by Ashlye Wilkerson (1,961 votes), Johnny Ray Noble (1,174), Lady June Cole (390) and Michelle Drayton (250).
The at-large seat came open following the October resignation of former board member Darrell Black, who took a job in another state. State law says that an election for the seat had to take place 13 weeks after that resignation. That 13-week date was actually Dec. 24, but the county bumped the special election a week to Dec. 31, because Dec. 24 was a state holiday.
The New Year's Eve election was the first in South Carolina in 17 years. South Carolina Ethics Commission officials say the last time it happened was on Dec. 31, 2002, when the small towns of Monetta and Olar had elections.
Milling tells Free Times he was pleased to come away with the victory.
"Obviously I'm excited about it," Milling says. "I think that it shows that our community was recognizing that we can do better and should do better for our children's education. It's not just about graduation rates. It's about preparing them for our future. I was really the main candidate talking about transparency and accountability, and that seemed to resonate with a lot of voters in our community.
"I think that was demonstrated in the voter turnout, which was higher than everybody expected it was going to be."
Voter turnout was at 7.47 percent, with 9,403 ballots cast out of 125,897 registered voters. While seemingly a small number, it was still a notable amount considering it was a one-race special election that happened on New Year's Eve.
The strange date of the election caused a scramble for polling places and poll workers for the contest. Milling raised alarm in December when the county announced there could be as few as 43 polling places, rather than the customary 93. However, the county was able to restore some of those precincts, and ended up with more than 70 polling locations.
Milling said he ultimately didn't hear any serious complaints about the voting process on New Year's Eve.
"I am not aware of any problems or concerns regarding polling locations," he says. "On the day of, I didn't hear anything. I tried to get around to as many of the different precincts as I could and thank the poll workers, because they were the ones who sacrificed their New Year's Eve for this."
The attorney admitted he didn't think he would win by a landslide margin.
"I've never been in politics before, but that certainly was not something I was expecting," Milling says. "We had five people in this race. I would have been pleased winning, period. But, I think it speaks to how people received what my message was, and demanding better for our students. Now I've got to jump in there with both feet."
The election is set to be certified by the county election commission Friday morning.