Surprise! Republican Mark Lazarus is your new Horry County Council Chairman.
Well, not much of a surprise. In fact, this was about as far from a surprise as is possible. If surprise were a city, we’d still be right here and those actually in Surprise would be halfway across the world, somewhere in Eastern Europe. If surprise were measured on a scale of 1 to 100, we’re around a -6. That’s how far from surprised we were with the outcome of Tuesday’s election.
How unexciting and predictable was this race? Only a paltry 1.23 percent of Horry County voters bothered to turn out on Tuesday. The unfortunate poll workers at the Gurley precinct in Loris waited all day and nobody showed up to vote. Hopefully they had a good book.
Why such a low turnout? One enormous reason: Lazarus was the only one on the ballot. After winning the GOP primary, he faced no more opposition for the seat. That’s a shame.
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Don’t get us wrong. We think Lazarus will do a fine job and we wish him all the best as he jumps into the task of leading Horry County. But a bit more healthy debate wouldn’t have hurt. And for that, some viable opposition would have been necessary.
Lazarus’ election is hardly the only one in recent months that has drawn little attention or opposition. Local state Sens. Luke Rankin and Ray Cleary and local Reps. Liston Barfield, Heather Ammons Crawford, Nelson Hardwick and Alan Clemmons were in the same situation last November, as was school board Chairman Joe DeFeo and County Councilmen Gary Loftus and Marion Foxworth.
All of these folks are doing commendably in their positions and we have no complaints about their performance, but it’s also hard to understand why no opposition could be found among the more than 270,000 people in Horry County. Yes, Horry County has become dependably Republican, which makes the road hard for non-GOP opponents, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try, and Republicans should welcome the challenge.
One-party rule is not good for the one party, which can become lazy, lax, overly comfortable and dismissive of challenges to its authority. Spirited debates and campaigns are not just about winning. They are about engaging voters with the issues, reversing the sort of pathetic turnout we saw Tuesday and clarifying candidates’ positions. A strong race forces candidates and voters alike to confront the issues and decide where they stand, rather than simply sliding by for another few years on vague promises and pithy slogans.
Yes, many of these GOP candidates do face challenges in their party primaries, but those debates are more limited in scope and built upon shared ideals, like chefs discussing the best way to ice a cake but never asking whether the cake needed to be baked at all. More opposition from outside Horry County’s ruling party, whether it be Democratic, Green, Working Families or something else altogether, could force needed discussions about the tenets of our political system, challenging – or confirming – our beliefs about the basic tenets of our political systems.
Though they may not win, having somebody step up to simply say, “I don’t think that’s right” presents us with the valuable chance to re-examine our own beliefs and engage more thoughtfully in the process of choosing our leaders. Solomon said it well a few thousand years ago: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Elections are coming up this year for most of the municipal offices in our area, including Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Conway and Georgetown. Good candidates are out there, beyond the usual suspects. It’s time for more of them to come out of the woodwork.