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Election 2010: Candidates face off - or not - in final days

Incumbent goes about business as write-in effort looks for support

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

While a write-in candidate for Georgetown County Council District 1 was trying to drum up support for his campaign in the last week before Election Day, it was business as usual for the incumbent.

“If you do it right, just being a County Council member is a full-time job,” said Jerry Oakley, who is seeking his third term.

That doesn’t leave much time for campaigning, especially on such short notice.

Oakley, a Republican, was unopposed until last week, when Ricky Horne announced his campaign. Horne said he’s been going full-steam ever since, trying to get his name out to voters and make the most of limited time.

“It’s not too late. It won’t be too late until Nov. 3,” Horne said Tuesday, flanked by a small group of supporters at Bubba’s Love Shak in Murrells Inlet, where he signed a pledge against new taxes.

While Horne was signing his pledge, Oakley was at a council meeting, listening to pleas from Murrells Inlet residents concerned about a potential ban of horses on county beaches. He spent the afternoon leading up to the meeting reading over materials pertaining to agenda items, and answering phone calls and e-mails from constituents.

On Monday, Oakley attended meetings of Preserve Murrells Inlet and the Litchfield Corridor Beautification Committee, groups he has worked closely with as a council member.

On Wednesday, he gathered with other Republicans at the party’s local Victory 2010 headquarters to welcome gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.

Those and other events were on Oakley’s calendar well before Horne announced his campaign. The only thing he did differently after Horne announced was have about 20 yard signs printed up and distributed to supporters.

Horne started his first and only full week of campaigning at Applewood House of Pancakes on Sunday morning, shaking hands at the door. He went to a trunk or treat event at Litchfield Country Club later, and on Monday he shook hands at Prosser’s Bar-B-Que in Murrells Inlet and did a spot on a local radio program.

Horne has also been campaigning door-to-door and making phone calls, activities he said he’ll be doing more of in the days to come. And, like Oakley, he has been putting out yard signs at homes and businesses.

“I’m getting so much help with my campaign and so many phone calls,” Horne said. “When I’m out putting up my [signs], people are blowing their horns and telling me they support me. They know I’m for lower taxes. That’s what they want.”

Though Oakley isn’t campaigning, he has the county GOP on his side. The party had volunteers making phone calls on Oakley’s behalf this week.

“Jerry Oakley has represented his constituents and the residents of Georgetown County in an outstanding manner over his past terms,” said Howard Ward, party treasurer.

Horne, who is also a Republican, said the county party discouraged him from running.

“I’m not mad, but I’m upset that the Republican Party is supporting Jerry Oakley,” Horne said. “I know he’s their candidate, but he’s not voting like a Republican. They said I’m hurting the Republican Party, but I think I’m helping as far as showing what has happened.”

Impact fees were Horne’s primary motivation for running. He doesn’t think Oakley, as a Republican, should have supported the fees, he said.

The fees were passed last year with a 6-1 vote.

For a write-in candidate to be listed on unofficial voting results, the candidate must be written in by at least 25 people, said Donna Mahn, the county’s director of elections.

There will be a team on election night tasked with officially logging in each name and spelling.

Because it has to be done manually, it will slow down election night reporting of the results, according to Mahn.

This is the second write-in campaign she has seen in recent years, she said.

County Council Member Ron Charlton ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of Georgetown last year.

“We don’t see [write-ins] a lot,” Mahn said, “but Mickey Mouse always gets a few here and there.”

Roger Greene contributed to this story.

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