By Paul Gable
The members of the HCGOP are following Donald Trump’s ‘Drain the Swamp’ mantra even when Trump makes the mistake of endorsing a Swamp candidate as he did with his endorsement of Russell Fry in the 7th Congressional District race.
Friday the Thirteenth has been known as an unlucky day since Friday October 13, 1307, when King Philip of France ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar in France as a threat to his throne. The arrests and subsequent killing of the Knights Templar effectively ended the order’s political and financial influence throughout Europe.
A similar conclusion about the influence of the Myrtle Beach Chamber cabal and its candidates can be drawn from the results of the Friday May 13, 2022 Horry County Republican Party straw poll.
While straw polls are not scientific polling, they are a clear reflection of the mood of the nearly 300 local political activists who attended the event. The straw poll results established that, just as the political influence in local elections of Burroughs and Chapin 20 years ago, the Chamber cabal’s influence in local elections is clearly on a steep decline.
Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster, the Chamber’s last, best hope of getting state funding for Interstate 73, received 47% of the votes cast while his opponent Harrison Musselwhite took 53%.
The Chamber’s two candidates for the SC 7th Congressional District had dismal showings with Tom Rice getting a miniscule 4% of the vote and Russell Fry only managing 12%. Both trailed co-leaders Ken Richardson and Garrett Barton who tied with 36% each.
Incumbent Rice was not expected to poll many votes since he is considered a traitor by the HCGOP since his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Fry’s is a story of a campaign that can’t gain any traction. Despite the event attendees being overwhelmingly supportive of Trump, (I would estimate Trump would have received nearly 100% of the night’s votes if he were on the ballot), Fry, who Trump has endorsed in this race, could only manage 12%. This is an indication that Trump supporters do not automatically vote for candidates Trump endorses, especially in the case of Fry who they know to be a RINO in the Chamber Swamp.
Richardson’s showing demonstrates he is the only candidate with the resources, funding and support throughout the 7th Congressional District to be able to defeat Rice. Richardson has the funding resources to go the distance in the race, has spent the last year speaking to voters throughout the district drawing the largest crowds among the candidates, and is consistently at or near the top of voters’ choices in polls and forums.
Throughout the last year, most of the candidates in the race have all fared well in one area or another. Richardson is the only one who has done well in all areas of the district.
In state House District 61, local businessman John Cassidy polled 88% of the votes while former Chamber board president and current ex officio board member Carla Schuessler could manage only 12%
In the state House District 106 contest for the seat Fry is vacating, former Horry County Council member and current School Board member Howard Barnard led the field of four with 46%. Brian Sweeney was second with 42%, Chamber candidate Val Guest received 12% with Bruce Bailey taking 5%.
Incumbent county council Chairman Johnny Gardner received 50% of the votes in his bid for reelection. Katrina Morrison polled in second with 23% of the votes. The Chamber’s two candidates in the contest, Mark Lazarus who Gardner beat four years ago received 15% of the votes with current county council member Johnny Vaught bringing up the rear at 13%.
County Council District One incumbent Harold Worley received 72% of the votes while his opponent, Jenna Dukes, could only muster 28% despite heavy funding from the Chamber and development cabal who are trying to buy this council seat.
County Council District Two saw challenger Dean Richardson receive 58% of the votes cast while Chamber favorite and incumbent council member Bill Howard trailed with 42% of the vote.
County Council District Seven, which has no Chamber favorite, saw newcomer Jeanette Spurlock poll 66%, trailed by incumbent Orton Bellamy at 29% and former Conway city council member Tom Anderson in third with 6%.
County Council District Eight saw Myrtle Beach Republican Women’s Club President Shannon Grady lead with 48% while newcomer David Ellis, whose expertise in proper development practices has his candidacy on a fast rise, totaled 32%. Brandon Skipper took 12% of the vote while Chamber favorite Mike Masciarelli managed only 8%.
The race for Horry County School Board Chairman had board member David Cox total 54% of the vote with HCS teacher Darrell Ricketts garnering 27% for current board member and former chairman Helen Smith trailing with 19%.
School Board District 2 had incumbent Sherrie Todd with 70% of the vote and challenger Debbie Edmonds totaling 30%.
School Board District 3 saw incumbent Tracy Winters with 55% to challenger Lorraine Mallon’s 45%.
School Board District 6 had Pam Dawson with 76% of the vote to 24% for Lyn Bondi.
School Board District 8 incumbent Melanie Wellons took 88% of the vote to 12% for challenger James Berry.
School Board District 10 provided a surprise with challenger David Warner polling 63% of the vote over incumbent Neil James with 37%.
The straw poll results demonstrate that incumbents no longer have an automatic path to reelection while having the support of the Chamber cabal is generally detrimental to a candidate’s chances for election.