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Election 2010: Round 1: The primaries

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

With the clock ticking down to Tuesday’s primary election, lots of people are scrambling.

Candidates are redoubling their efforts, hitting the campaign trail hard to reach as many voters as possible in the time they have left. Meanwhile, voters are going into research mode, working to make sure they’re prepared when they head to the polls.

“I’m going to be going to a lot of these rallies this week,” said Sandy Dionne of Murrells Inlet, who attended a campaign event for gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster in Litchfield on Wednesday morning.

Dionne and her husband, Peter, were on a fact-finding mission, they said. Peter was looking for some general information to help him decide on his pick for governor. He’s considering Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, but wanted to check out all the candidates, he said.

Sandy said she was already leaning toward voting for McMaster.

“He’s been a very strong attorney general and we definitely need a strong person,” she said. “I think he can turn South Carolina around. I don’t see him having any problem bucking the powers that be.”

But she wanted to ask him a few questions before she casts her ballot.

“I want to know what he hopes to accomplish as governor,” she said.” And she was curious as to whether McMaster would continue the work he started in his current position.

McMaster’s answer was a resounding yes.

“I’m not going to give up my work on public safety,” he said. “SLED works for the governor; not for me. The attorney general can’t make law enforcement do any thing, but the governor can.

“I would have more direct authority as governor than I do now over public safety ... I can do everything better and stronger from the governor’s office.”

The gubernatorial race is one of about a dozen Wacccamaw Neck residents will have a say in on Tuesday and this year’s primary ballot will be a crowded one, especially for Republicans.

Four of the seven candidates for governor are Republican, and the GOP claims five of six candidates for lieutenant governor.

There are nine GOP hopefuls in the contest to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Brown in the 1st Congressional District — enough to virtually guarantee a runoff election and give Republican voters a lot to think about.

That will be the most important race voters will decide next week, according to Jim Jerow, president of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club. And it should also prove to be the most interesting because of the sheer number of choices voters will have, he said.

With seven of the nine candidates living in Charleston County, he predicted the vote will be split there, so Georgetown and Horry counties may decide that race.

“Whoever wins is going to have to have Georgetown and Horry counties,” he said.

The Dionnes said they haven’t pinned down a favorite for the congressional seat yet. They need more information first.

Randi Harrington of Pawleys Plantation will have fewer choices on the Democratic ballot, but she said she plans to study up over the next few days, too.

“I don’t know that much about the various positions of most of the candidates,” she said.

She’ll rely on the local news and interviews with candidates to educate herself, she said.

However, she already has her pick for governor. She’ll vote for state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

“He seems rather proactive,” she said.

Bill and Meb Graves said they’re also supporting Sheheen.

“He was recommended to me by some people he went to school with who know him real well and they say he’s smart and would be good for the state,” Bill said.

Sheheen seems honest, Meb added, and that’s the most important thing to her. “Integrity is what we’re looking for.”

The couple said they will also support Robert Burton and Vic Rawl in the primary. Burton, an airline pilot, is one of two Democratic candidates in the 1st District race. Rawl is one of two U.S. Senate candidates competing for a chance to take on popular Republican incumbent Jim DeMint in November, if DeMint defeats his primary opponent, former Democrat Susan Gaddy.

If Rawl wins the primary, the Graveses said they’re prepared to make phone calls for his campaign and work hard to help him unseat DeMint.

“I’m so disappointed in Sen. DeMint and his dishonesty,” Bill said. “He wants America to fail under this administration and I think that’s terrible under any circumstance.”

The race for lieutenant governor has received less attention than some of the others, but Jerow said that’s one he’s excited about. Some of the candidates have “thrown a new light on the position,” he said, and “if given the opportunity to do what they want to, the lieutenant governor will be responsible for more than the office on aging.”

Candidates Ken Ard and Bill Connor spoke to the Republican Club earlier this year and expressed a desire to see the lieutenant governor take an active role in economic development, working to promote the state and bring new businesses to South Carolina.

In addition to the bevy of statewide races, Pawleys Island area residents voting in the Republican primary will elect a new County Council member Tuesday. Barry McCall, a retired magistrate, and Bob Anderson, owner of Anderson Home Design and Sales, both hope to replace retiring Council Member Glen O’Connell.

Voters have heard little from either candidate and say it’s anyone’s guess who will win that race, but Jerow said he’s just glad folks will have a choice.

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