5 GOP candidates who seek Horry council chair likely to face low voter turnout

01/29/2013 9:03 AM

01/29/2013 6:08 PM

The five candidates running in the special election to fill Tom Rice’s former seat as Horry County Council chairman are all Republicans with previous civic and political experience.

It’s a combination one political expert says could leading to low voter turnout.

“The combination of a special election, not exciting new characters and no highly salient issue is going to take a low turnout affair and probably dock it a little more,” said Scott Huffmon, professor of political science and director of the social and behavioral research lab at Winthrop University.

The five hopefuls are: County Councilman Al Allen; former council chairman Liz Gilland; Debbie Harwell, former member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors; former County Council member Mark Lazarus; and former council candidate Fonzie Lewis.

Huffmon said it’s not uncommon for special elections like this to attract those who have been around this particular political office.

“They know how to meet deadlines. They know what they need to file,” Huffmon said.

Still, it’s a far cry from the type of attention and interest in 7th Congressional District race, where a number of the 17 candidates who initially sought the position were first-timers.

Huffmon said lack of experience is the culprit.

“They don’t understand that experience matters when running for higher officer,” he said.

Rice, who held his first political position as County Council chairman, left the post after winning the 7th Congressional District race in November.

Sandy Martin, director of registration and elections, said the cost of this special election will run between $85,000 and $90,000.

“Could be a little more, could be a little less,” Martin said.

Because all candidates are Republican, the March 12 primary will likely decide the race. But there will still be a general election on April 30, where the winner of the primary will face any write-in candidates for the term that expires in 2014.

A primary election is reimbursable by the state, but that is not the case with the general election, Martin added.

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