Upsets, uncontested races highlight Lexington County elections

Lexington County political races Tuesday were marked by Republican domination, a handful of upsets, and a slew of uncontested races.


Lexington County poll workers examine voting-machine cartridges Tuesday night as the count gets underway. (Photo by Hal Millard)

With 69 percent turnout and 123,024 ballots cast in the county, new President Donald Trump was the overwhelming favorite of local voters, winning nearly 66 percent of the vote in a seven-person race in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton received just 29 percent of the vote.

That even outpaced Trump’s dominating statewide win, where he gained 56 percent of the vote, versus Clinton’s 40 percent, shattering numerous poll projections that had indicated a possibly tighter race.

A South Carolinian on the presidential ballot, American Party nominee Peter Skewes of Clemson, polled dead last in both the county and state, getting just 0.2 percent of the vote in each.

In what became a more competitive race than many might have thought, Democratic candidate Arik Bjorn of Columbia, in his first-ever run for political office, managed 31,420 votes in the GOP-dominated county in his battle against Rep. Joe Wilson for the District Two congressional seat. Districtwide, Bjorn managed 93,599 votes, or 34 percent of the final vote.

However, Wilson was still able to handily defeat Bjorn with 62 percent of the vote in the five-county district, and nearly 68 percent in Lexington County, where Wilson lives.

American Party candidate Eddie McCain of Leesville drew four percent across the district, and nearly six percent in Lexington County in his third bid to unseat Wilson, who will start his eighth term when he returns to Washington.

GOP domination prevailed up and down the ballot, with the only exceptions being wins for incumbent Democratic Sen. Nikki Setzler of West Columbia, and District 93 Rep. Russell Ott of St. Matthews.

In perhaps the most bitterly fought contest, incumbent Republican Coroner Margaret Fisher trounced former Richland County Coroner and Constitution Party candidate Frank Barron III, in his third failed bid for the office. Barron drew just 30 percent of the vote, compared to 70 percent for Fisher, who survived attacks from Barron that questioned her credentials, and her handling of bodies at crime scenes, among other things.

While incumbents mostly emerged unscathed, there were a handful who took it on the chin Tuesday night.

Long-time Lexington Town Council member Todd Shevchik lost to local businessman Steve Baker, while incumbents Todd Carnes and Ron Williams managed to retain their seats, despite last-minute attacks from an anti-tax group for their support of the town’s two-percent hospitality tax enacted last year for road improvements.

And on the Lexington County School District One school board, incumbents Jean Haggard and Brent Powers lost to Mike Anderson, Anne Marie Green, and Grady Harmon. Meantime, incumbent Cynthia Smith managed to retain her seat in the six-person race for four available seats.

Numerous candidates did not even break a sweat Tuesday as a significant number were unopposed, save for the possibility of a write-in insurgency.

Those winning unopposed or filling available seats were: Sheriff Jay Koon; state Senators Ronnie Cromer, Katrina Shealy, and Shane Massey; S.C. House members Rick Quinn, Nathan Ballentine, Chip Huggins, Todd Atwater, Mac Toole, and Russell Ott; new 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard, new County Clerk of Court Lisa Comer; County Auditor Chris Harmon; County Treasurer Jim Eckstrom; new County Register of Deeds Tina Guerry; County Council members Debbie Summers and Bobby “Gravedigger” Keisler, along with first-time Council members Scott Whetstone, Darrell Hudson, and Erin Long Bergeson; Soil and Water District Commission member Brent Weaver; and Hollow Creek Watershed board members Verne Caughman, J. Richard Derrick, and Bill Scott; and Lexington School District Three candidates Craig Caughman, Stacey Derrick, Leon Drafts, and Lancer Shull. In the latter two races, the number of candidates matched the number of available seats

Other school board candidates winning seats included Bill Bingham, Jr., Kevin Key, Beth Branham, and Cindy Kessler in Lexington District Two; Chris Pound, Daniel Martin, Kathy Mixson, and Doris Simmons in Lexington District Four; and, Michael Cates and Beth Burn Hutchison in Lexington-Richland District Five.

The only referendum on the ballot was a successful one – and a big one. In Lexington School District Four, 64 percent of voters approved a $25.4 million bond referendum, which will be used to upgrade athletic facilities, and most notably to construct a 1,200 seat performing arts center at Swansea High School.

In other notable races: GOP District 20 Sen. John Courson beat Green Party candidate Scott Lewis West with 73 percent of the vote; House District 39 Republican Cal Forrest beat Democrat Tillman Gives with 73 percent of the vote; Republican Micah Caskey beat Democrat Rosemounda Peggy Butler and Constitution Party candidate Robert Lampley with 62 percent of the vote in House District 89; and GOP Rep. Kit Spires trounced Democrat Robert Vanlue to retain his District 96 with 76 percent of the vote.

All votes will be certified this week by county elections officials. For a complete rundown of final vote totals, check back with Cola Daily.