After a tumultuous campaign that turned somewhat ugly over the last three weeks, political newcomer Paul Price will take the District 5 seat on the Horry County Council.
Price faced Bill McKown in a Republican runoff Tuesday night after he failed to garner a majority of votes in the original June 8 primary, which included third candidate Dick Withington. The men were fighting to take the seat left open by current Councilman Howard Barnard, who forfeited the position when he ran for Horry County Council Chairman, and lost in the primary.
Price won the runoff election with 58.89 percent of the vote to McKown's 41.11 percent, based on unofficial results. About 400 fewer people voted Tuesday, but both candidates' vote counts were similar to the primary with Price jumping from 1,158 on June 8 to 1,279 Tuesday and McKown dropping slightly from 913 to 893 votes. Price will take office in January because no Democrat filed to run for the seat that covers Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach and part of Murrells Inlet.
"I feel great. It is absolutely wonderful. I'm so happy that the people of District 5 turned out the way they did, and I'm humbled by all the support they gave me," he said from Jack DeBruhl's barbecue restaurant in Garden City.
McKown did not return requests for comment Tuesday night.
In the past few weeks, outside political action groups and politicians with little affiliation to District 5 have gotten involved in the race by either making endorsements or sponsoring fliers that went door to door.
The S.C. Truth Squad, which has come under fire from several campaigns around the state for its secrecy, launched a campaign against McKown including four-color mailers highlighting controversies over his residency and over taxes being owed on an airplane he has a share in.
McKown said after the June 8 Primary that in many of the polls his campaign conducted, he was leading in the three-way race before the S.C. Truth Squad fliers were mailed out. Attorney General candidate Alan Wilson took the group to court over the weekend and got a temporary injunction against a television ad being run against him by the group.
The S.C. Supreme Court stepped in and overturned the injunction Monday.
McKown also faced criticism from Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle, who brought forward about $11,000 in overdue tax bills on various assets, some of which McKown said he no longer owns.
McKown also said he was never given notice of the bills.
Eargle said she checked the tax records for both candidates and felt it was her duty to bring the information forward.
She co-sponsored a campaign event for Price on Sunday.
Price also faced his share of criticism, including several local business owners who claimed his protest of their liquor licenses and his behavior during the motorcycle rallies was hurting their business.
Several owners said they were concerned that if Price won, he would crack down on all biker business, eliminating or lessening the number of permits allowed during the spring and fall motorcycle rallies.
Price said he was within the law when he filed the protests, both of which were dropped. He said Tuesday night that part of his plan will be to sit down with the businesses and try to be a unifier for the district.
"I intend to reach out to all citizens and businesses in District 5.
"The election is over and I want to bring everyone together and work as a team for the betterment of the district," he said.
"I want to move forward and serve them all the best way that I know how."