MYRTLE BEACH — Myrtle Beach campaign season has begun with all four incumbents up for reelection and one challenger filing for this year’s City Council election.
The seats of incumbents Mayor John Rhodes and councilmen Wayne Gray, Mike Lowder and Randal Wallace are up for election, and all four filed paperwork Thursday to attempt to retain their positions on the council. Former Myrtle Beach mayoral candidate Keith Van Winkle also filed Thursday to run for City Council.
Filing for the Nov. 5 election opened Thursday at noon and will close at noon on Sept 6.
Rhodes said during a Thursday press conference at City Hall that the council’s ability to compromise, even when the members don’t agree, is a reason all four should be reelected to the seven-member council.
Rhodes is running for his third term as mayor, Lowder is running for his second term and Wallace is running for his fourth term. Gray is running for his fourth term since first being elected to council in 1997. He was not in office from 2001 to 2005.
Van Winkle said he was running because he feels the city needs to get a handle on crime in town.
“As citizens we can do better,” he said during a Thursday press conference after filings. “People pay high taxes here in the city and they deserve to have a quality of life. They deserve to have a safe city.”
Violent crimes in Myrtle Beach increased slightly in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to statistics released earlier this year.
In the statistics released in February, Myrtle Beach officials noted that murders in the city increased from four in 2011 to five in 2012; rapes went from 35 to 42; robberies 163 to 195; burglaries increased from 600 to 661; and arson cases increased from two in 2011 to 13 in 2012.
Lowder, who worked for more than 20 years in law enforcement in Myrtle Beach and Horry County, said while he will never be satisfied until the city’s crime rate is zero, very little crime committed in Myrtle Beach is “home grown.”
“Our crime comes and visits us just like our vacationers come visit us,” he said. “Those kind of things are going to happen.”
Van Winkle, who serves as director of public relations and marketing for Capital Cab, is trying for the fourth time to serve in public office. He ran in 2008 for Horry County Council against Councilman Marion Foxworth, who won. In 2009 he ran for Myrtle Beach mayor, but dropped out of that race.
In 2010 Van Winkle attempted again to run for County Council but was kicked off the ballot because he was one of 16 Horry County Republican candidates who failed to file a statement of economic interest by the required deadline.
All four incumbents have referred to the pre-election season as an unusually quiet one.
“I’d like to think it’s because people are happy with what we’ve been doing,” Wallace said Thursday.
Application packets are available at City Hall, 937 Broadway St. in Myrtle Beach. Potential candidates must submit a statement of candidacy and file with the S.C. Ethics Commission, according to city spokesman Mark Kruea. There is no filing fee.
No other potential candidates filed with the city as of 4:50 p.m. Thursday, said city clerk Joan Grove.
Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5. If a runoff is necessary, it will be held Nov. 19. To run, potential candidates must be 18 years old and a city resident. They also must be registered to vote by Oct. 5.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.