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District 7 runoff: Turnout falls, but Rice and Tinubu get their share

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

There were no long lines at the polls in Georgetown County on Tuesday when voters were asked to decide runoffs for the 7th Congressional District.

“We did have a little bit of a lunch rush right around noon. There was a line that lasted about five minutes,” said Rita Smith, a poll worker at Pawleys 2, the precinct at All Saints Church.

But for the most part, voters were in and out quickly as they elected Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice over former Lt. Gov. André Bauer as the Republican nominee and Gloria Bromell Tinubu over Preston Brittain for the Democrats.

Turnout was a meager 8.5 percent in the eight counties that voted in the 7th District race. It was a bit higher — 12 percent — in Georgetown County. That was 6 points lower than the county’s turnout for the primary two weeks ago.

Of course, Democrats only had a few days to prepare for their party’s runoff. Tinubu, a Coastal Carolina University professor and economist, was declared the party’s winner by the state Elections Commission right after the primary. However, the matter went to court and a runoff was set after a lawsuit was filed by Brittain supporters based on how votes for a candidate who dropped out of the race, Ted Vick, were handled.

Sending voters back to the polls didn’t help Brittain, a Myrtle Beach attorney. Tinubu had an easy victory, claiming 73 percent of the vote and winning every county. Brittain won only 373 votes in Georgetown County, compared to 2,580.

Tinubu made a stop in Georgetown on Tuesday afternoon, greeting workers at the steel mill during a shift change. All was quiet from Brittain’s camp during the runoff.

In the contest between Rice and Bauer, Rice claimed 56 percent of the vote and won every county except Marion and Dillon.

Rice was in Litchfield the day before with Gov. Nikki Haley, former Gov. Jim Edwards and former Congressmen Ed Young and John Napier. Their stop drew a big crowd and Ted Quantz of DeBordieu, who is in charge of finance for Rice’s campaign, said he thinks it played a part pushing Rice to victory.

Rice stressed his Georgetown County connections, having respect for the 9th and 10th amendments and said the country needs to get back to the foundation on which it was founded.

He called for smaller government, a balanced national budget and more jobs. He also asked supporters to use social networking, e-mail and phones to encourage friends to get to the polls. But perhaps the most notable thing he said had to do with character, which opponents have called Bauer’s biggest disadvantage.

“Honor me with your vote tomorrow and I promise I will never embarrass you and I will make you proud,” he said.

Haley called Rice someone who understand’s the needs of the district and the state, and who “won’t stomp on our freedoms” and “understands leadership is courage.”

As for Bauer, she said, his record proves he has “no political or philosophical core.”

Bauer said it’s always his personality opponents attack; never his record.

Bauer was in Litchfield earlier that day talking to the Georgetown County Republican Women’s Club and stopped in the Pawleys Island area the week before. He addressed accusations he’s a carpetbagger and criticized Rice for being inaccessible and too moderate.

“The ads on both sides were so negative, it was really sad. You don’t know who to believe about which is the conservative,” said Frank Stiglin of Heritage Plantation. “You just have to go with your gut.”

His gut told him to vote for Bauer.

“I didn’t vote for either one of those candidates the first time, but you have to make a choice,” said Stiglin’s wife, Carole. “If people don’t vote, then they won’t have a say-so in what’s going on and we’ve always felt like you have to do that.”

Eddy Crawford, a Pawleys Island area resident, had to vote in the Democratic runoff because that’s the party he voted with in the primary. He wished he could have voted in the Republican runoff.

Crawford wanted to vote against Bauer. Since he couldn’t, he cast his vote for Brittain, saying he didn’t think Tinubu “has a chance of winning; not in this district.”

“Of the candidates we have, I think Preston Brittain and Tom Rice are without a doubt the best,” he said.

Crawford described his political views as “right down the middle.”

“I came from the D.C. area and here they think Rush Limbaugh is a liberal. I’ve never seen anything as far right as they are here,” he said.

In addition to fewer voters, there were also fewer people collecting signatures for petition candidates. Tables were set up during the primary to collect signatures for three candidates running for county courthouse seats: Mike Andrews, a candidate for treasurer; Tammie Avant, who is running for clerk of court; and Rod Stalvey, a candidate for auditor. They each have to collect about 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot and were nearing their goals last week, but mentioned perhaps focusing on the Murrells Inlet area during the runoff.

That was also the plan for Darryel Carr, who is collecting signatures to run for sheriff.

Kathy Harrelson was the only candidate collecting signatures at the Pawleys precincts on Tuesday. She wants to run for auditor and is the only petition candidate who wasn’t cut from the ballot based on recent state Supreme Court rulings. She’s petitioning because Auditor Linda Mock announced at the last minute she wouldn’t seek re-election and filing had closed by the time Harrelson, who works in the auditor’s office, decided to give it a shot.

Voters were for the most part receptive.

“When they explain them right, I’ll sign,” Sally Graham of Ricefields said of the petitions. She wants to know why the candidates are running as petition candidates first.

Petitioners said some voters wouldn’t sign because they don’t think a candidate who filed incorrectly can handle the office they’re running for.

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