By Paul Gable
Voters in District 9 will go to the polls Tuesday to decide who will represent them for the next four years on county council.
The runoff election is between Terry Fowler and Mark Causey.
Fowler is a retired Horry County police officer while Causey is a real estate broker.
That difference in jobs caused some of the citizens in the district to link Causey to the real estate development interests in the county.
However, I am not sure that distinction is correct in this race.
Fowler openly supported former council chairman Mark Lazarus against current council chairman Johnny Gardner in the 2018 council chairman race. No one on council was more associated with the development industry than Lazarus.
If employment is to be a determining factor in who is tied to developers, consider there are Fowler family employment connections to the Shep Guyton Law Firm, a firm intimately connected to the development industry in the county.
Shep Guyton was fined by the South Carolina Ethics Commission for his part in the $325,000 disbursal of campaign contributions to politicians at the local and state level who were involved in the process that resulted in the imposition of the Myrtle Beach Chamber’s Tourism Development Fee.
If one looks on the surface at associations that could be tied to the development industry in Horry County, Fowler’s are certainly more suspect than Causey’s.
The Fraternal Order of Police branch in the county endorsed a number of candidates in county elections for this primary cycle. Fowler, a former police officer, was not one of them. I expect this was because of Fowler’s support of Lazarus in 2018. Gardner was endorsed by the FOP and was certainly more supportive than Lazarus for changes that needed to happen with respect to pay and additional officers for the department.
The development industry has had a good election cycle this year. It was successful in getting Cam Crawford, Dennis Disabato and Gary Loftus reelected in the recent primaries. Republican primaries decide who will take office because of the lack of Democratic candidates in the November general election.
District 9 experiences some flooding issues, maybe not quite as severe as Districts 6, 7 and 10, but certainly severe to the families who get flooded. District 9 is also a new center of interest for the development industry as new home sub-divisions move west. Lazarus is associated with landowners who purchased land in this area with an eye to rezoning and sale to developers.
The development industry was successful in getting some last minute changes to the Horry County Comprehensive Plan which could make it easier to put new homes in wetlands and conservation areas merely by vote of council. The more votes developers influence on council, the easier these approvals will be.
The Fowler campaign tried to paint Causey as sympathetic to developers from the beginning of the campaign. I don’t believe the decision as to who is more sympathetic to developers is as simple as some voters, who bought into this early campaign rhetoric, seem to think.
Correction: It is incorrectly stated above the FOP as an organization endorsed candidates in the primaries. Chuck Canterbury, former head of the FOP, individually endorsed candidates, not the FOP membership.