Gorbachev says Russia needs change

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev gestures speaking during his news conference ahead of the 20th anniversary of Aug. 19, 1991, hardline coup that briefly ousted him and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011.

Hanahan voters will decide a three-way mayoral race Nov. 2, and Lowcountry voters will see a host of hopefuls vying for local school boards as well as local ballot questions.

Those facts became clear Monday, as county election officials certified candidates and referendums for this fall's election.

Two of the Berkeley County School Board's seats up for grabs are uncontested. Incumbent Doug Cooper is the lone candidate in the District 2 race, while incumbent Frank Wright is the sole candidate in the District 8 race.

Shannon Lee will run against incumbent Jimmy Hinson in the District 4 race, and Sylleste Davis will face off for the District 6 seat against Sheldon Etheridge.

In Charleston, only one of the school board candidates who filed for election didn't have enough qualified signatures to make it on the November ballot. David Grant, who planned to run for one of two East Cooper seats, instead will appear on the ballot for the District 2 (Mount Pleasant) constituent school board.

Cindy Bohn Coats is the only candidate in the running for the open North Charleston seat. Craig Ascue, Sonya Buckhannon, Elizabeth Moffly and Everett Wilcox will compete for the two East Cooper seats, and Michael Miller and Mary Ann Taylor will run for the one open West Ashley seat. Charleston school board candidates must live in certain districts, but they are elected by the entire county.

In Dorchester County, all of the candidates who filed to run for the school board will be on the November ballot. Those filing for one of four open seats on the District 2 board are incumbent Harry Blake, incumbent Gail Hughes, Tanya Robinson, incumbent Charlie Stoudenmire and incumbent Frances Townsend.

On the District 4 school board, incumbent Angie Crum was the only candidate to file for the open Seat 4. Shirley Smith Goodwine and incumbent Cheryl Mushrush filed for the open Seat 5.

In Hanahan -- the only local city that holds its elections at the same time as the general election -- incumbent Mayor Minnie Blackwell will face a challenge from Councilman Tim Baker and former Councilman Levy Berry.

Hanahan voters also will choose between incumbent Kevin Cox and challengers Tammi Blackmon, Leroy Calhoun, James Lecque, Dan Owens and Michael Sally for three open council seats.

Berkeley voters also could get a chance to decide whether to allow Sunday beer and wine sales in unincorporated areas.

That referendum will be held only if County Council gives final approval soon.

"If there's a problem with it, and it doesn't pass (in County Council's vote), it can always be removed from the ballot," county Elections Director Wanda Farley said. "But it can't be added two weeks from now."

Charleston County voters not only will decide whether to approve a six-year, one-cent sales tax increase to pay for school construction projects, but they also could decide a government consolidation question that County Council is expected to vote on tonight.

Dorchester County voters will decide if they want to approve $5 million in bonds for buying land for recreational and environmental reasons. If approved, it would raise property taxes by $4.20 on a $150,000 home. County voters have rejected similar parks or recreation referendums three times since the 1990s.

Across the state, voters will decide on four referendum questions that could amend the state's constitution.

These questions involve: clarifying the state's ability to regulate wildlife conservation while protecting private property rights; ensuring that employees vote by secret ballot when deciding whether to join a labor union; increasing the state's rainy day fund from 3 percent to 5 percent; and using the state's Capital Reserve Fund to replenish its rainy day fund before offsetting any midyear budget cuts to state agencies.

Counties will begin mailing absentee ballots to overseas military personnel by Sept. 18, and they will begin accepting in-person absentee voting not long after that, State Election Commission Public Information Officer Chris Whitmire said.

"There's not a date set in law that says absentee ballots have to be available by," he said.

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 2.

Diette Courrege contributed to this report. Reach Robert Behre at rbehre@postandcourier.com.