Most of the country is adjusting to a new president after a contentious election that stretched almost two years. For Myrtle Beach, the election is just beginning.
This year will bring contests for three city council seats and the mayor’s seat. Mayor John Rhodes and Councilmen Mike Lowder, Randal Wallace and Wayne Gray all face the end of their terms, and all but Lowder have said they expect to run. Lowder could not be reached by phone Wednesday, but Rhodes told The Sun News he expected Lowder would run.
But one potential challenger has already surfaced. Jay McDowell, a local contractor, said he is planning to run for the mayor’s seat this year, and created a Facebook page in January announcing his intention.
He said Myrtle Beach has not been friendly to small, local businesses. He also said he wants to reduce crime in the city.
“I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring and see what happens,” said McDowell, who has not previously held public office.
Chuck Martino, who served on city council from 1998 to 2010, said candidates typically start raising money in earnest four to five months before the election.
But, he said, “Incumbents usually don’t announce one way or another until the night before filing time” is over. Candidate filing for the Nov. 7 vote will open on Aug. 24 and close on Sept. 8, according to City Clerk Joan Grove.
“I’m sure he [McDowell] won’t be the only one,” Rhodes, the incumbent, said. “It’s early yet; you gotta see what’s gonna happen because the filing date’s not until August.”
Rhodes will start his re-election with $29,134 remaining after the 2013 election, according to a financial report filed on Jan. 10. State law allows candidates to keep a balance in their campaign accounts “for a subsequent race for the same elective office,” according to guidelines on the S.C. Ethics Commission’s website.
McDowell, who grew up in North Myrtle Beach and resides in Carolina Forest, is eligible to run but would have to establish Myrtle Beach residency by 30 days before the election. He said he plans to move into the city limits in the next six months.
McDowell also said he hopes several candidates enter the field.
“I hope I’m not the only one, because I don’t have the answers to everything,” he said.
But Martino, who expects many people will run this year, said a large amount of candidates often split the votes of those that want new leadership, ultimately benefiting incumbents.
“Incumbents love it when there’s a big field,” Martino said.
All members of Myrtle Beach City Council, including the mayor, serve four-year terms.