By Paul Gable
The South Strand Republican Club hosted a candidate forum Tuesday night for those seeking the Horry County Council District 6 Republican special primary nomination.
As has been the norm over six forums held throughout the district during this special election campaign, five candidates, Blaine Garren, Ric Coates, Chris Stephens, Cary Rowell and Kirk Hanna, showed up.
The sixth (alleged) candidate in the race, Cam Crawford, remained conspicuous by his absence from any forum where he would have to answer questions and engage in debate with the other candidates in the race.
It appears that Crawford is running a new kind of stealth campaign where he avoids the question and answer forums and hopes voters will elect him anyway (maybe as a way to find out who he is).
If so, the strategy isn’t working. The general buzz in the audience and among the other candidates was ‘if Cam Crawford can’t bother to come to these forums, he shouldn’t be running for office.’
Of the five candidates who are attempting to win this election, one other characteristic created buzz in the crowd. Four of the candidates, Garren, Coates, Stephens and Rowell, were dressed in coats and ties in an attempt to look professional.
The fifth, Hanna, came in work clothes. The owner of a construction company, when questioned about his appearance, Hanna passed his dress off as ‘this is the way I am and this is the way I dress’ – maybe attempting to emphasize some ‘good ole boy’ roots.
We live in a very casual society today but, when you are applying for a job, Appearance Matters. When you are representing something or someone else, Appearance Matters. When you are applying for the job of county council member to represent the citizens of a district, Appearance Matters.
Even “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and “Cotton Ed” Smith wore coats and ties when campaigning and attending to public duties.
The issues that drew a split in the candidates attending were taxes and road fees. Two of the candidates, Rowell and Hanna, came out against raising county taxes and road fees. The remaining three, Garren, Coats and Stephens, supported raising taxes and road fees.
However, those against raising taxes supported strong growth with no explanation of how growth, whose costs in increased county services are double what revenue it brings in from increased tax base, would be paid for in the future.
Four of the candidates supported county funding of Coast RTA with Hanna strongly against it.
But, Hanna’s campaign consultant is Jay Specter who threatened the Coast RTA board with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint last fall when he claimed the bus agency wouldn’t hire him (Specter) because he was a convicted felon.
One has to wonder whether the question wasn’t planted for reasons other than this forum.
It was obvious, from listening to the candidates, that the learning curve on county council will be steep for whoever wins.
However, Garren may have the best foundation for the job having been a public safety employee with the City of Myrtle Beach and having served on several county boards and committees, including, currently, the accommodations tax advisory committee.
Special elections are an event unto themselves. The successful candidate will be the one who can motivate his supporters to go to the polls to vote.
Voting in the District 6 Republican primary will be Tuesday June 16, 2015 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.