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Election 2016: Attacked from right and left, Goldfinch wins Senate seat

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Stephen Goldfinch says he will reach out to opponents now that he has secured the Republican Party nomination for state Senate District 34. He won’t have to reach far. Nearly 95 percent of the eligible voters stayed home in this week’s GOP primary runoff election. Goldfinch, a two-term House member from District 108, got 52.5 percent of the 5,333 votes cast. “I want to heal the community,” he said.

The district includes parts of Georgetown, Horry and Charleston counties, with the majority of voters in Horry. But Georgetown County turned out almost 11 percent of its eligible voters in the nine Waccamaw Neck precincts and one rural precinct included in District 34, giving Goldfinch his largest margin in the race – 164 votes – over Reese Boyd, a fellow attorney and former law partner who lives just across the county line in Mount Gilead.

“This is a Georgetown County seat,” said Goldfinch, who lives in Murrells Inlet. “Yes, I represent Horry County and I’ll serve them to the best of my ability. Yes, I represent Charleston County and I’ll serve them to the best of my ability.” But he added, “Georgetown County is owed a Senate seat.” The balance of the county is in District 32, held by Ronnie Sabb of Greeleyville in Williamsburg County. District 34 has been held for 12 years by Ray Cleary, a Republican who also lives in Murrells Inlet. He didn’t seek re-election.

Three House members from Horry County – Alan Clemmons, Heather Crawford and Russell Fry – joined Goldfinch and his family at Pawleys Prime in the Hammock Shops to watch the results come in Tuesday night. Goldfinch won Horry County by 83 votes, a turnaround from the first vote when Boyd carried the county.

“It’s a nail biter,” Goldfinch said, looking between a laptop computer screen and a cellphone as the precincts reported. The win in Horry prompted his wife Renee to pump her fist.

Goldfinch won the four Murrells Inlet precincts, but just two of the five Pawleys Island precincts: Pawleys 3 (by one vote) and Pawleys 5 (by 23 votes). Volunteers worked the phones for nine hours Tuesday to turn out the vote for Goldfinch. Susan Rovner, who called the Pawleys area voters, said most were receptive. “We used every list we could think of,” she said.

“We couldn’t have done it without your work,” Goldfinch told her.

“I learned the importance of loyalty,” Goldfinch said later. His vote for a rise in the state gas tax to fund road repairs caused Gov. Nikki Haley to support Boyd after campaigning for Goldfinch in his House District 108 race two years ago. Haley’s plan was to offset funds for roads with a cut in the state income tax. “I’m not going to say anything disparaging about Nikki Haley,” Goldfinch said. “Regardless of the governor’s adversarial tone, I’m going to work with her.”

Not only did he have opposition from Haley, who he said funded Boyd’s television ads, he had former Democratic Rep. Vida Miller turning out votes for Boyd. Goldfinch called both efforts “sour grapes.”

It didn’t make sense for Georgetown County Democrats to try and elect an Horry County resident to the Senate seat, Goldfinch said. “I understand the strategy. OK. But philosophically it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I want to talk to that crowd. We need to do it for Georgetown County.”

No Democrat filed to run, so barring a petition candidate or write-in campaign Goldfinch will be unopposed in November. Lee Hewitt, owner of Garden City Realty and another inlet resident, was unopposed for the nomination to replace Goldfinch in House District 108. He was appointed by Haley to the board of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and said he hasn’t paid too much attention to the rift between the governor and Goldfinch.

“I hope we’ll have good relationships with everyone,” Hewitt said. “Maybe I can be the go-between.”

Goldfinch said his focus in the legislative session that starts in January will be on roads. “That’s as local as it gets,” he said. He wants to change the Senate rule that allows one member to hold up legislation by filing an objection. That nearly passed this session. “We need to change that rule. I think we’ll have the votes,” Goldfinch said.

GOP leaders decry crossover vote drive

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw Neck Republicans supporting Stephen Goldfinch were incensed that Democrats were being encouraged to vote for his opponent, Reese Boyd, in the state Senate District 34 primary runoff this week.

Former state Rep. Vida Miller, who lost to Goldfinch in a 2014 state House race, sent a message to Democrats that this week’s vote was about electing “someone who has the values and integrity to make a great public servant.” Without a Democrat in the race, she said, this week’s Republican primary runoff would be the only opportunity residents of Senate District 34 have to make their voices heard.

“We absolutely have the right to vote for someone who will listen to our concerns and represent us honestly, fairly and ethically. Reese Boyd is that person,” Miller’s message said. “I know him, and I trust him. He shares our concerns about the coast and has an open mind to issues our communities care about.”

Goldfinch defeated Boyd by 263 votes.

Jerry Rovner, president of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club and chairman of GOP District 7, sent a message to Republican voters supporting Goldfinch and lambasting Boyd.

“What Reese Boyd is doing is a mockery of everything those of us have toiled in the trenches of building a Republican Party have been fighting for,” Rovner said. “Vida Miller was a liberal aligned with the Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, Obama agenda, and now Reese Boyd has her campaigning for him. Please, don’t let Democrats elect our next senator.”

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Randy Hollister said closed primaries are the answer, but some GOP legislators in rural parts of the state want open primaries because they get some Democratic votes. “It’s changing,” Hollister said. “Several Republicans said they are changing their minds about needing Democrat votes to win. At some point it will change. Until some of those folks who benefit from it are no longer in state office, particularly in the state Senate, they will block it.”

Boyd said he was disappointed by Rovner’s e-mail, and he could see “multiple ironies” in the situation. “I have long been an advocate of closed primaries in our state,” Boyd said. “Closed primaries are good. They eliminate the gamesmanship you get in an open setting. The fact is we have open primaries. Life is like golf: You play the ball as it lies.”

Boyd said he didn’t understand when it became a crime to take a phone call from a voter, regardless of party. He said President Reagan got 25 percent of the Democratic vote in 1984 and was called “The Great Communicator.” Boyd said Reagan was known for his “11th Commandment,” too. Do not speak ill of fellow Republicans.

“My personal mentor was Gov. Carroll Campbell,” Boyd said. “A lesson I learned from him is it is at least as important to talk with people with whom you disagree as the people you agree with over every facet of an issue. I understand it was a political argument some people wanted to use against me.

“All I did was have a dialogue with voters who called. I was not the only candidate to meet with Democratic voters from time to time. Democratic voters participate in the process. I was singled out for some sort of infraction for doing that. It’s fairly nonsensical.

“There are people who rather burn the ship than have a conversation with people on the other side of the boat. I don’t understand that. I wasn’t the candidate of their choosing, I get that. It was an argument they constructed. If talking to people of different opinions disqualifies you from public service, then by all means disqualify me from public service.”

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