By Paul Gable
The Myrtle Beach cabal and its chosen candidates are staging their very own political reality show during this campaign season. As with any reality tv show, it has nothing to do with reality.
Nor does it have anything to do with issues or the interests of the voters.
The programs on reality tv need conflict and tension to give them public appeal. This plotline is being recreated in the political arena by having the history of cabal candidates and their opponents rewritten.
What is at stake in this election cycle is whether the gains made in the last four years for the citizens will be allowed to continue or whether kowtowing to special interests will again be the order of the day.
Four years ago, when Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner defeated Mark Lazarus, Johnny Vaught acted as a Lazarus surrogate attending the functions Lazarus didn’t attend and speaking for Lazarus at those events.
This time around, Vaught and Lazarus are both challenging Gardner’s reelection. Again, both carry similar false messages about what the county needs. They do not attend the same functions around the county and they are known to be meeting periodically, apparently to discuss campaign strategy.
Joined at the hip to give special interests an ally in the county chair, Lazarus and Vaught are the Siamese reality twins of this election cycle attempting to sow confusion, conflict and tension into the campaign for county chairman.
Lazarus is running around the county saying the county needs “to get back on track”, while Vaught says the county needs a “problem solver.”
The problem is getting the county back on track for Lazarus means funding I-73 construction with county funds; doing away with impact fees; buying wetlands from developers at premium prices; removing any restrictions on developers and maybe even getting back in league with Chinese bandit Dan Liu who is looking to redevelop local golf courses bought with stolen money.
For Vaught, solving problems means using county funding for I-73 construction to solve the Chamber’s problem; eliminating impact fees to solve the SC Homebuilders Association problem; removing restrictions on development to solve the developers’ problem and, in the rare event Vaught should actually win, getting him the position he so covets to solve his own image problem.
For anyone to believe the campaigns of Lazarus and Vaught are not about themselves and their special interest buddies is laughable.
And the ‘political reality show’ doesn’t stop there.
In Horry County District One, the developers’ candidate, Jenna Dukes, is twisting the history of her opponent, incumbent Harold Worley, calling Worley a “millionaire developer” in an attempt to paint him as an opponent of the people.
Dukes was recruited to run against Worley by millionaire developer Benji Hardee and his friend Doug Wendel. According to sources who have contacted GSD, Hardee has been calling his pals, including some out of state, asking them to bundle campaign contributions for Dukes.
One Dukes mailer said, “Worley has voted against funding new roads and infrastructure, new parks, building a new fire station and 195 new public safety positions in Horry County.”
What the Worley vote was actually against was a 2021 county budget that called for a 7.5 mil tax increase, for the property owners of Horry County, that included those items. In fact, in 20 years on county council, Worley has never voted for a property tax increase on the citizens and business owners.
Worley voted for a proposed amendment to the budget that would have funded the public safety infrastructure and positions without a tax increase. That amendment failed.
The new roads and infrastructure referred to in the mailer is simply, I-73. Worley has consistently joined Chairman Gardner to oppose using local tax dollars to fund construction of I-73. Lazarus, Vaught, incumbent District Two council member Bill Howard and the rest of the cabal leaning council members, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus, have consistently voted to fund I-73 with local tax dollars.
Speaking of Howard, he is an incumbent the cabal wants to keep in place. His latest campaign mailer brags about the $12 million the county spent, at the behest of Lazarus, to purchase the 3,700 acres of wetlands that a developer could not use at a premium price of over $3,000 per acre for wetlands. Howard’s mailer also speaks of “working hard to balance the budget and keeping property taxes low.”
Howard is on record for voting for the 7.5 mil tax increase in 2021 and also voted for the second largest increase in property taxes in county history, a 7.2 mil tax increase in the 2015 budget, joining Lazarus and Vaught in voting for that tax increase and joining Vaught in voting for the 2021 tax increase.
Just for the record, Worley voted against the 2015 property tax increase and joined Gardner in opposing the 2021 property tax increase.
Howard’s opponent, Dean Richardson, is a long-time business owner who does not follow the tax and spend policies of Howard.
The choice for voters in the upcoming June 14th primaries for county council positions is quite simple. Despite the ‘political reality’ rhetoric of Lazarus, Vaught, Dukes and Howard, being spewed to sow chaos and confusion into the campaign season, do the voters want to support the goals of special interests to use local tax dollars to fund I-73 construction, remove impact fees on new development, remove the new restrictions on development, remove the new requirements for flood mitigation and worry about new, large property tax increases?
A vote for the special interests candidates will revert the county to pre-2018 conditions that voters rejected four years ago and the tax and spend policies of cabal candidates.