MONCKS CORNER — Berkeley County's Democratic Party was in such disarray a year ago that a County Council candidate trying to run as a Democrat couldn't find anyone in the party to accept his paperwork.
James "Doc" Holliday eventually filed with the county's voter registration office, but he might as well have been a party of one. The party had no chairman and was coming off another year of playing second fiddle to a Republican Party that has dominated the county despite its own in-house strife.
A year later, the Democratic Party is showing signs of life. Spurred by the national presidential primary and a new local chairwoman, the party welcomed more than 150 Democrats to its county convention last month and fielded an entire slate of officers.
What it didn't do was field any new candidates for this November's general election. S.C. Rep. Joe Jefferson, the District 102 incumbent, was the only Democrat to file for a county or state office this year. County Councilmen Caldwell Pinckney and Steve Davis are the only two other Democratic officeholders.
New Chairwoman Michelle Cox said she was disappointed the party couldn't persuade some of its members to vie for the other state House seats, but she's far from discouraged considering the progress the party has made.
"In 2010, we will not hand these seats over as easily as we did this year," she said.
Cox says the GOP-dominated county has always had a solid base of Democratic supporters who just needed to be re-energized. She said Democratic success nationally and the intense race for president has infused supporters of all ages.
The numbers from this year's preferential primaries appear to bear that out. More Berkeley County voters cast ballots in the Democratic primary, 16,656, than in the Republican primary, 15,274.
"The people were always there, but when you keep getting beat down all the time, you kind of give up," Cox said.
Not everyone thinks the Democrats have a chance in Berkeley County. Neil Diamond, a former Berkeley County Democratic Party chairman who quit the party in 2006, said there was a core group who took the party seriously, but they were the minority.
"Too many parts of Berkeley County think it's a social club," Diamond said. "There are individuals who think raising money means they will get some of that without doing anything."
The party has always had strong showings in the northern, rural part of the county, but not in the more populated areas, such as Goose Creek and Hanahan. Diamond doesn't see that changing.
He called the preferential primary turnout "wonderful," but he said he doesn't see that translating in the fall.
"When it comes to November, the Democrats are not going to win here," he said.
Cox is more optimistic. Praised for her energy by those in and out of her party, she said the only other option is to give up, and she's not ready to do that.
Jefferson said the energy is palpable and there's a lot of hope for 2010.
"We're going to keep the same enthusiasm very much alive," he said. "I think there's going to be a lasting effort. I think you're going to see a resurgence of Democrats entering races."
Wade Arnette, chairman of the county's Republican Party, said he's not underestimating what the Democrats can do. After all, he said, he watched the party go from Democratic to Republican fairly quickly more than 20 years ago.
"I'm sure they're going to be working very hard," he said.