Conway resident Johnny Vaught was hoping his win in the Republican primary for the Horry County Council District 8 seat would secure his bid to fill the office currently held by Carl Schwartzkopf.
But, on July 15 – the last day to file signatures to get on the Nov. 4 ballot as a non-Democrat or Republican – Krystal Dotson presented 944 signatures and will battle Vaught as an Independent in the upcoming election.
In June, Vaught beat Candace Howell and Daniel Cochran to secure the Republican nomination. Dotson said her decision to run as an Independent was a simple one. She said she thinks it’s time to put people ahead of political affiliation.
“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat,” Dotson said. “I respect both parties, ideologies and their contribution to our democratic system, however I don’t consider myself to be 100 percent Republican or 100 percent Democrat.”
“When you see what County Council is dealing with, they’re not dealing with issues that should be seen through a Republican’s or Democrat’s eyes. They’re just issues that are common sense issues that affect people in this county.”
Dotson said her goal, if elected, is to promote economic development, strengthen the area’s infrastructure and “maintain a fiscally conservative budget.” She said she sees her advantage to being a nonpartisan candidate is her ability to work between the county’s two major parties.
“I’ve always wanted to get into politics,” Dotson said. “It has been something that has been in my heart to do for as long as I can remember.”
She resigned from a supervisor job at the Federal Bureau of Prisons because it “didn’t give me the ability to fulfill my passion,” Dotson said.
Her opponent is known among council members because he has made all but one major council meeting and committee meeting for the longest stretch of any candidate running for office this November. Dotson is not letting that impact her desire to serve the public.
“I have done more than I think necessary to avail me to learn the issues and to meet with voters. Nothing is more important to me than speaking to the voters,” Dotson said, adding she has become “fully aware of the issues by talking with other council members” and Schwartzkopf, who currently holds the District 8 seat.
“Me not attending the committee meetings in no way, in my opinion, shows that I’m not capable of understanding. I am engaged, I am aware, I’m truly educated and I’ve got the experience to be able to do the job that is necessary.”
Vaught is a retired college professor and Navy veteran. He, like Dotson, has taken a grassroots approach to campaigning by knocking on doors since the second week of September. As of Thursday, he had covered eight of the district’s 12 precincts.
Vaught said a lot of what he is hearing from constituents in their concern over rising home insurance rates because of a change in the fire risk rating system. Concerns have mostly come from the Carolina Lakes area, where some homeowners have seen their insurance rates triple.
“That’s going to be one of my concerns is to get something done about the fire station situation to hopefully get those people some relief down there,” Vaught said, adding he would like to see a county-run fire station that is surrounded by the city of Conway moved to S.C. 544 to have a more centralized fire station.
Vaught has also heard much about neighborhood security.
“Our Horry County Police Department is stretched pretty thin, but we need to do something about that so people feel safe in their homes,” he said.
Vaught said he vows to work hard to get the inbound U.S. 501 lane widened on a quicker pace than the planned 2018 schedule.
He said he encourages voter to compare his resume with Dotson’s and hopes their vote will be made clear.
“I think it will become real clear which person is more qualified to serve in that position of leadership,” Vaught said.