Tag: Horry County

One Year Until Republican Congressional Primary, Is Rice Toast?

One year from today, June 14, 2022, voters will go to the polls for primary elections to nominate candidates for the November 2022 general election.
The most closely watched race will be the Republican primary for the S. C. 7th Congressional District. Will five term incumbent Tom Rice survive his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump and win the Republican nomination?
Incumbents have a few advantages over challengers especially name recognition and the ability to raise money from the many PACs around the country looking to gain access to legislators.
However, since Rice’s vote to impeach former President Trump, the 7th Congressional District is being treated like an open seat by challengers. Ten challengers to Rice had filed with the Federal Election Commission as of the March 31, 2021 required filing date. When the June 30, 2021 filing is complete, we may see a couple more challengers have emerged.
The same March 31st filings show Rice raised $404,000 for his campaign chest, nearly all from out of state PACs. Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson raised $154,000 generally from donors within the 7th District. The other nine Republican candidates raised just over $3,000 total among them.
It is estimated a campaign chest of at least $2 million will be needed to fund a serious challenge to Rice. Only Richardson, among the challengers, is on track to raise that kind of money to this point.
But it takes more than money to win elections. A look back at a little history of Horry County and the former S.C. 6th Congressional District, most of which now comprises the 7th Congressional District, may help to put the 2022 primary in perspective.
Former Congressman John Jenrette, the only other person than Rice elected to Congress from Horry County, said when he beat 17 term Congressman John McMillan in the Democratic primary of 1972 (back in the days when nearly everyone in South Carolina was a Democrat), “McMillan had the money but I had the people.”
McMillan was an old style, Jim Crow Southern Democrat who failed to connect with the many new voters brought into the electorate since 1964. Jenrette served four terms in the S. C. House as an at-large representative from Horry County. Jenrette had already connected with those new voters and many of the older ones who also voted for McMillan.

Richardson Gaining National Attention as Potential Challenger to Rice

Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson hit the national news spotlight recently when the New York Times ran an article mentioning Richardson as a potential challenger to Rice in the upcoming June 2022 Republican Primary for Rice’s SC 7th Congressional District seat.

Richardson said he was surprised at getting a call from the New York Times reporter. “When my phone rang and it was the New York Times on the other end wanting to talk about me challenging Rice for Congress I was very surprised,” said Richardson.

Richardson said his entire focus right now is on getting Horry County students safely back into the classroom five days a week.

Toward that goal, the school district is in the final stages of surrounding each student desk with Plexiglas shields. Richardson said meetings are ongoing with administrators, cafeteria staff and maintenance staff on what additional steps will be required to provide a safe learning environment when the district shifts to full-time, in-school classes.

“My number one priority right now is getting the kids back in school full-time,” Richardson said.

However, making a future run at Rice’s seat is not out of the question for Richardson.

“When the 7th district was first created in 2012, I considered running for the seat then,” Richardson said. “But, I was involved in negotiations to sell my car dealership (Fowler Motors) at the time and I didn’t feel I could give the attention necessary to run a Congressional race at the same time.”

Richardson said he ran for the position of school board chairman because there were things he wanted to accomplish for the students of Horry County, but the thought of running for Congress has never completely left his mind.

In June 2019, Richardson released a statement that Rice needed to do more to help local schools impacted by hurricanes.

Lawsuit Challenging Proposed Campground Sale Latest Myrtle Beach Demonstration of Bad Public Policy

The pending lawsuit between Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach over the proceeds from the proposed sale of the city owned portion of Pirateland and Lakewood campgrounds highlights another example of poor public policy that has been the lowlight of incumbent Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council’s last three years in office.

This will be at least the fourth major lawsuit involving the city, three of which have Horry County on the opposing side, since Bethune took office.

The lawsuit that does not include Horry County was brought by merchants affected by a supposed “family friendly overlay zone” on Ocean Boulevard that prohibits the sale of certain items which are readily available and sold throughout the remainder of the city.

These prohibitions appear to be not only a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal application of the law, but since over 90 percent of the affected businesses are Jewish owned, also appear to be discriminatory and anti-Semitic. Bethune led the charge in passing these discriminatory restrictions by city council.

Unequal application of the law and discrimination against a certain segment of the business community is certainly bad public policy.

In the three lawsuits involving Horry County, it appears the city was attempting to get its hands on pots of money that the city used extremely suspect logic to lay claims to,

One lawsuit has the county and Horry County School District suing the city over alleged misuse of approximately $20 million in TIF funds collected from Market Common.

A second lawsuit was initiated by the city against Horry County for hospitality fee collection. In this one, the city attempted to allege that the county has been illegally collecting hospitality fees in the city since January 1, 2017 and was looking to lay claim to over $100 million in funds.

Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

With the City of Myrtle Beach announcing last week it plans to appeal the judge’s order on a settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit it brought against Horry County, it appears the city has taken the stance of ‘my way or the highway’ on the lawsuit issue.

Everything has been settled and agreed to between the parties in the lawsuit except for the disbursement of approximately $19 million the county collected in the various city jurisdictions in the county between March and August 2019.

Horry County asked the judge to order that money be returned to the city’s in which it was collected. The judge agreed.

Myrtle Beach requested one half of those funds be returned to the cities and one-half established as a fund from which it may pay out refunds to individuals who paid the hospitality fee between the above months with any unclaimed amount going to the South Carolina Bar Association’s fund for legal services for low income residents.

Under the county plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $11,170,800 of the approximately $19 million total. This money could be spent on infrastructure and public safety services associated with tourism, according to state law.

Under the city plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $5,585,400. Why would the city want to receive less money and why would it appeal a judge’s order that awarded it more?

The dispute over the settlement money split is about interpretation of Rule 23 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, which deals with class action lawsuits.

Myrtle Beach issued the following statement as an explanation, “This appeal is necessary to finally determine the rights of the other members of the class — those who paid the Hospitality Fee to Horry County during the period when it was in dispute — regarding distribution of the portion of the $19 million common fund that was not otherwise resolved by the settlement agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Manager John Pedersen have both added the city’s attorneys said the appeal is necessary in order to shield the city from any potential liability related to a suit that may be brought by a potential claimant.

I have spoken to two attorneys not involved in the lawsuit who said the city is already shielded from any claim by the trial judge’s order. In addition, neither believe this is a class action suit.

SkyDive Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Advances to Deposition Stage

After being delayed for six months due to Covid 19 restrictions, depositions in the lawsuit SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County et al will begin September 30, 2020.

The lawsuit evolved from the county shutting down operations of SDMB and evicting them from the North Myrtle Beach airport using a Director’s Report from the FAA in which 112 alleged safety violations played a large part in the FAA claiming SDMB operations at Grand Strand Airport were unsafe.

This is where things get tricky. The county used an informal means of reporting the alleged safety violations, a county generated form called an “Unusual Incident Report”.

When responding to a Freedom of Information Request for documentation associated with these reports, the county responded by sending the Unusual Incident Reports but no supporting documentation.

A short memorandum from county attorney Arrigo Carotti included with the FOIA response said, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”

In other words, the county reported SDMB had committed 112 safety violations without ever investigating any, according to Carotti’s memo.

When a FOIA request for documentation on the 112 alleged safety violations was sent to the FAA, the response from Thomas A Winston, Manager Flight Standards Division, Southern Region of the FAA was, “You requested information regarding 112 allegations of safety violations used to make the table in the Director’s Report dated October 7, 2015 by Randall Fiertz. We searched our files maintained in the South Carolina Flight Standards District Office. We could not find any documents responsive to your request.”

The FAA had no documents supporting any of the 112 alleged safety violations. Anytime a suspected safety violation has taken place at an FAA regulated airport, a Mandatory Occurrence Report is supposed to be filed with the FAA and entered into the CEDAR (Comprehensive Electronic Data Analysis and Reporting) system. . No MORs were found in the FAA system with respect to the alleged violations by SDMB.

The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

Horry County voters will have distinct choices in a number of local and state primary races this year as challenges to incumbents continue to rise.

Those choices simply put are a decision by voters on whether they support candidates who represent the needs of the citizens or candidates who represent the oligarchy who wish to continue to control government for their own self-interest.

Eight weeks remain until primary election day for voters to make their choices.

For the past few weeks there has been talk that the primaries would be postponed until later in the summer. This does not appear to be the case as the majority of the General Assembly members believe holding the primaries in June will give them an advantage in the primaries as incumbents.

Last week, the General Assembly added an additional $15 million to the state contingency fund to help make voting “safer” for voters. So, it looks certain that June 9th is the date to vote in the primaries.

Campaigning directly with voters will be difficult as long as the current coronavirus restrictions remain in place. It will be important for voters to watch what is posted in social media and weigh the information being presented.

In general, it is my opinion that the candidates who will best represent voters against the fading but still influential power structure in the county are challengers, not incumbents. Not in every case, because a few incumbents have served the best interests of the county citizens, but in most cases.

Several S. C. House primaries come quickly to mind to illustrate the above points.

Case Brittain will provide a formidable challenge to 18 year incumbent Alan Clemmons in S. C. House District 107.

Clemmons is one of the elected officials the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce can always count on to do its bidding. There has been no louder voice than Clemmons for Interstate 73, a project that is years off and will immediately benefit only some of his donors in the local area. Then we have Clemmons’ many trips to the Middle East, funded by his campaign chest.

Brittain is a Horry County native and local attorney. He is tired of seeing Horry County be a donor county to other areas of the state, always an afterthought when it comes to state funding for schools, roads and the like. He wants to put the “Grand” back into the Grand Strand. It would be nice to have a representative from Myrtle Beach who worries more about the citizens in his district than the current one who spends more time with citizens of Israel and Egypt than those at home.

Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.

Candidate Filing One Week Away, Silly Season Has Already Begun

Filing for elective office in the county is one week away which will begin what can only be called the “silly season” when facts are few and far between.

However, in one race, the one for a new county Auditor, “silly season” began last August when local CPA Clark Parker announced his candidacy for the position of Auditor and his various pronouncements and posts since.

When Parker announced his campaign last August, he said he could “contribute a lot to the needs of the county” and that “it is important that we collect all our taxes that are due to the county.”

Shortly after his announcement, local media reported Parker was delinquent in paying personal property taxes for tax years 2012, 2017 and 2018. Those delinquent taxes were paid by Parker after the information became public.

Parker was reportedly taking campaign advice from a group of advisors. One or more of those convinced Parker to begin placing campaign yard signs. County ordinance forbids such campaign signs from being placed until 45 days before election voting. Election voting for the Republican primary is June 9, 2020. Signs cannot be placed until near the end of next month, but Parkers were out last fall.

A Facebook post encouraged supporters to take a picture with one of the signs. The best picture was supposed to be rewarded with free dinner for two at Rioz Brazilian steakhouse.

One of Parker’s campaign operatives, Johnny Fryar, was a guest on Talking Politics, hosted by John Bonsignor and myself. I notified Fryar of the illegal timing of the signs. He tried to argue the point with no knowledge of the ordinance. Sometime after the show, the campaign signs were removed.

Since that time, other Facebook posts on Parker’s campaign page have called him the “technology candidate” even though he does not understand what technology the county has and does not understand that county technology is not controlled by the Auditor.

He has also called himself the “2nd Amendment candidate” although I haven’t the slightest clue what the right to bear arms has to do with an office that prepares tax bills for the county. Nor does Parker.

This is a campaign with no message other than throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and hoping something sticks with voters.

Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner named a special committee during the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting Tuesday to study possible options for mitigating the flooding problems from which the county has consistently suffered since 2015.

Gardner appointed Harold Worley as chairman of the special committee with Al Allen, William Bailey, Kevin Hardee, April O’Leary, Alex Hyman, Nick Godwin, Forrest Beverly, Steve Gosnell and Gardner himself as committee members.

The committee brings together points of view from local and state elected officials, citizen and construction industry perspectives with county administrator Gosnell to provide technical expertise as a licensed professional engineer. The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division will provide staff support to the special committee.

 Gardner said he believed flooding was such a problem in the county that he decided to appoint a special committee to specifically focus on flooding issues and possible ways to mitigate the problem.

The special committee will report back recommendations for mitigation to the county I&R Committee who will discuss and vote whether to forward those recommendations to full county council for approval and action.

In other flooding related issues discussed at the I&R meeting, the county Storm Water Management Department told committee members that there are approximately 250 outstanding work orders dating to as far back as 2015. The committee was also presented with a list of budget enhancements for personnel and equipment totaling approximately $4.4 million that the department needed to clear the backlog and allow the department to meet current requirements.