By Paul Gable
Now that primary elections are completed, the biggest loser can be identified as Mark Lazarus in his bid to regain the post of Horry County Council Chairman.
Lazarus went into this campaign absolutely certain that his defeat by incumbent Chairman Johnny Gardner in 2018 was an aberration and that he would without question win a rematch this year.
Lazarus had a funding edge of approximately 10 to 1 over Gardner when donations to his campaign and the three PACs who sent mailers or paid for television ads to support his candidacy are totaled.
A funding edge of 10 to 1 should be enough to win any race. But it wasn’t, mainly because Lazarus could not escape the load of baggage he carried with him from his five and one-half years as county chairman from 2013-2018.
Lazarus could not escape the fact that he called the county first responders “Thugs” four years ago. He couldn’t escape his tight ties with the local cabal, his willingness to spend local government revenue on Interstate 73 construction instead of local road improvements and the anything goes development atmosphere that was pervasive throughout the county during his time as chairman.
And the Lazarus campaign strategy of attempting to rewrite his history as chairman, then going negative on Gardner was awful. Blame that on his campaign consultant Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications.
Whetsell was also party to the second biggest loss in the primaries when incumbent Congressman Tom Rice was walloped. It was only the second biggest loss because Rice sealed his fate on January 13, 2021, when he voted to impeach President Donald Trump. There was nothing Rice could do to erase that fatal mistake from voters’ minds even though Whetsell, at the time, said it would be forgotten in two weeks.
Whetsell does okay with city elections or small county or legislative district elections, but has never proven he can win a countywide race in Horry County. He even failed to convince a majority of county council to vote for funding for I-73 despite an alleged poll and several mailers for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce attempting to obtain that result.
Johnny Vaught was the third biggest loser having given up his county council district seat to play second fiddle to Lazarus in the Cabal effort to defeat Gardner. By doing so poorly in the primary and also then endorsing Lazarus, Vaught is not a lame duck on council, he is a dead duck.
The Cabal had a mediocre campaign season. It got a couple of its candidates into the SC House of Representatives and a couple into county council district seats.
However, the Cabal failed to gain probably the most important office in Horry County politics, that of Horry County Council Chairman, when it failed to unseat Gardner.
Had Lazarus prevailed in the county chairman race, county revenue would have been committed to I-73 funding immediately after January 1, 2023, impact fees would have been rescinded and regulations limiting development in wetlands and rural areas of the county would have been dismantled.
And this is where the citizens come in. They weren’t fooled by the Lazarus campaign rhetoric or propaganda mailers and television and radio ads. They weren’t fooled by all of the Cabal political lackeys such as Brenda Bethune, Marilyn Hatley, Dennis DiSabato, Luke Rankin, Case Brittain, Bill Howard, Gary Loftus and, ultimately, Vaught endorsing Lazarus.
The Cabal, its political lackeys and preferred consultant Whetsell’s ability to fool the voters is becoming less and less effective each election cycle.