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

By Paul Gable

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.

We only have to go back to the county chairman’s race in 2018 where Johnny Gardner defeated Mark Lazarus to understand at least a portion of voter discontent. The voters elected Gardner over incumbent Lazarus because Lazarus was seen as too closely tied to special interests in the county at the expense of the welfare of average citizens. The Crawfords acted as consultants to the Lazarus campaign and Clemmons was one of his big vocal supporters.

After Gardner was elected, those special interests worked behind the scenes to attempt to overturn the decision of the voters by attempting a smear campaign against Gardner. That smear campaign was supported on the council dais by Crawford, DiSabato and Loftus who voted to keep former administrator and Lazarus henchman Chris Eldridge in place long after the smear campaign led by Eldridge was proven totally false.

Ultimately, it took a contract settlement with Eldridge to get rid of him to the tune of an approximately $350,000 payoff. Crawford, DiSabato and Loftus can be blamed directly for that waste of taxpayer money while Heather Crawford and Clemmons closeness to Lazarus made some of that mud stick on them. Only Rankin has opposition for other reasons.

Campaigning will be different this time as long as coronavirus worries keep restrictions on crowd gatherings.

Facebook and other social media will be most important in getting the message out and there are already well involved social media groups in place who are dedicated to seeing incumbents defeated.


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