Slate set in packed area political contests; Surprises in council, congressional races

The races for several local elected offices have taken their final shape as candidate filing for this year's election closed Tuesday at noon, but not without a few surprises.

Many candidates had announced their intentions to run weeks or months ago. Several of those had a change of heart in the past two weeks while others kept their intentions quiet until the last days of filing. Some highlights of the filing season include a whittled down Horry County Council chairman's race that shrank from more than a half dozen potential candidates to three, and a still large and likely run-off bound Republican field for the open seat in the U.S. 1st Congressional District of South Carolina.

Filing closed with nine names in the Republican race for a shot to replace exiting Rep. Henry Brown.

"The situation is it's a vacancy and anytime you've got a retirement, you're going to have a passel of them in there. No one wants to run against an incumbent because they have money and name recognition," said Neal Thigpen, a retired political science professor at Francis Marion University who has studied state politics.

"I'll admit nine is probably a lot, even for an open seat, but you have a lot of big Republican primaries at the state level because of open seats."

Still in the race are Carroll Campbell III, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr.; Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson; military officer and activist Katherine Jenerette; Larry Kobrovsky; Mount Pleasant businessman Mark Lutz; Horry County accountant Clark Parker; S.C. Rep. Tim Scott; Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond, son of late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond; and former Henry Brown staffer Stovall Witte. Isle of Palms Councilman Ryan Buchanan announced this week he would not file and instead would throw support to Glasson.

Thigpen said he has heard that three or four of those candidates have already taken a lead in the race, but some of the lesser known candidates have argued that they bring less baggage to the race. Horry County Republicans campaigned with several local politicians to persuade a local candidate to run for the seat. Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace said last week that he would not run, leaving Parker and Jenerette the sole candidates from the northern portion of the district from either party.

Democrats Robert Burton, a commercial pilot, and Ben Frasier, a Charleston businessman who will be running for the 18th time, filed for the U.S. 1st Congressional District as well. Myrtle Beach businessman Robert Dobbs, a recent transplant from Michigan, and retired Horry County accountant Dick Withington had also run over the past few months for the nomination. Withington announced last week that he would drop out of the race to run for Horry County Council as a Republican.

The Georgetown County Council will have three seats up for re-election this year, including District 1 and District 7, both of which will be unchallenged for respective incumbents Republican Jerry Oakley and Democrat Johnny Morant. District 6 County Councilman Glen O'Connell said he has decided not to seek re-election after one term, leaving the seat open for Republican challengers Bob Anderson and Barry McCall.

The Horry County Council will have seven seats up for re-election this year, with only one incumbent not facing a challenger, District 2 Councilman Brent Schulz. Two other councilmen will wait until the November general election to face their challengers; District 1 Republican Harold Worley will face Democratic challenger Brian Scott, and District 7 Democrat James Frazier will face Republican challenger Jim Edwards.

District 8 Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf will face John Abercrombie in the Republican primary. Abercrombie is involved in a lawsuit against the county to overturn its recently adopted trash flow control law. District 11 Councilman Al Allen will face former county employee U. A. Johnson in the Republican primary.

The council chairman's race, which is elected county-wide, features a Republican primary between Councilman Howard Barnard and tax attorney Tom Rice, who became politically active during the Myrtle Beach debates over the noise and helmet laws. One of the two will face Democrat Vincent Lehotsky, a local activist who delivers newspapers for a contractor of The Sun News, in November. Both incumbent Chairwoman Liz Gilland and District 6 Councilman Bob Grabowski decided not to run for the seat. Grabowski announced his decision shortly after filing closed Tuesday.

Barnard's run for the chairman's seat leaves the District 5 position open, with four Republicans vying for the seat: former congressional candidate Withington, businessman Robert Palmer, Paul Price, and chairman of the county's Airport Advisory Committee, Bill McKown.

The Horry County school board will also have seven open seats, two of which will not be challenged, including District 1 Republican board member Harvey Eisner and District 7 Democrat Paul Hudson. Four seats will be challenged in the November general election, including the chairman's race between Republican incumbent Will Garland and Democratic challenger Subhash Saxena and the District 3 race between incumbent Republican Joe DeFeo who will face Democrat Johnny Evans, who he unseated in the 2006 general election.

In District 2, Republican challenger Karen McIlrath will face incumbent Mary Ellen Greene, who switched parties to run as a Democrat after 12 years on the board. District 10 incumbent Neil James, who was appointed after the previous board member was removed because of a criminal indictment, will face Democratic challenger Lucian N. Norton Jr., in November.

District 6 incumbent Pam Timms will face Blaine Garren, vice chairman of the county Airport Advisory Committee, in the Republican Primary.

Officials from both local parties said they are happy with the candidate turnout.

"I'm really pleased with the candidates we have," said Horry County Republican Party Chairman Robert Rabon. "We have some new candidates who are pretty good, and I think people are also pretty pleased with the incumbents we have in a lot of the races as well."

Several local S.C. representatives will also face challengers this year. In District 58, incumbent Republican Liston Barfield will face Democratic challenger Butch Johnson; District 68 incumbent Republican Thad Viers will face former assistant solicitor Bert von Herrmann in the Republican primary; District 104 incumbent Tracy Edge (R) will face Charles Randall (D) in the general election; District 105 George Hearn (R), District 103 Carl Anderson (D) and District 107 Alan Clemmons (R) are unopposed; in District 106 incumbent Nelson Hardwick will face Mandy Wilkes in the Republican primary; and in District 108 incumbent Vida Miller (D) will face Republican challenger Kevin Ryan in November.

For a list of state races and candidates, check political blog.