By Paul Gable
Primary election night was ruled by incumbents at all levels.
Only one incumbent lost, Janice Morreale in the District 5 school board race, and that was not a loss to a newcomer. Former county councilman for that district, Howard Barnard, defeated Morreale. Barnard gave up his council seat when he unsuccessfully ran for council chairman 10 years ago.
There will be newcomers to the county council District Nine seat and Horry County Auditor as incumbents Paul Prince and Lois Eargle, respectively, did not seek reelection. Both races will go to a primary runoff in two weeks with Mark Causey and Terry Fowler squaring off for District 10 and R. A. Johnson facing Beth Calhoun for Auditor.
One other incumbent, Sen. Luke Rankin, was forced to a runoff with challenger John Gallman in two weeks as either failed to get over 50 percent of the votes cast.
The victories by the incumbents effectively guarantee that the special interests in the county will play a big role over the next several years to the detriment of average citizens.
There is no doubt there will be a renewed effort to use county tax revenues, not state or federal dollars, to construct the Interstate 73 section in Horry County.
Likewise, developers will continue their push to build anywhere they wish, as much as they wish without any consideration for existing infrastructure and public safety needs of the areas to be developed.
Expect any county council attempt to pass impact fees on new development to be foiled and flood mitigation to be put on the back burner as special interests strive to make as much profit as possible.
There is no doubt that the Covid 19 epidemic played a part in the loss of the challengers as they were restricted in any ability to address groups of voters. Incumbents already had familiarity and name recognition going for them.
However, the basic fault lies with voters, or rather lack of them.
Approximately 17 percent of registered voters cast a primary ballot. Approximately 80 percent of those voted in the Republican primary. Even with a 2 to 1 victory margin (67%) for the incumbents, only 9 percent of registered voters decided who will serve in office.
When you are in a one party county as we are, the winners of the Republican primary will win the general election in November, most, if not all, uncontested. Therefore, 9 percent of the registered voters are deciding who will be elected to office. There is something very wrong with that equation.
As long as so few voters cast ballots in primaries, special interest candidates, in this case the incumbents, will continue to be elected to office most of the time.