It was an off-year for elections in South Carolina, but voters in many cities, towns, and tax districts still headed to the polls on Election Day. Here are some of the results:
Columbia: Voters re-elected mayor Steve Benjamin for a second term. Benjamin won by a larger margin the second time around, dispatching businessman and city council member Moe Baddourah with 64 percent of the vote. The mayor will likely remain in campaign mode, however, as voters will return to the polls next month to decide if the city should switch to a strong-mayor system.
Lexington: A few miles to the west of Columbia, residents tossed out their longtime mayor Randy Halfacre, in favor of Councilman Steve MacDougal. MacDougal eked out a victory with 807 votes to the incumbent’s 789. The outcome came as a surprise to many observers, as Halfacre is well-connected in Midlands political circles. MacDougal, a restaurant executive, had made infrastructure a central focus of his campaign.
Myrtle Beach: Mayor John Rhodes easily dispatched three challengers, picking up 66 percent of the vote. Rhodes told local reporters that he saw the results as a sign that residents are satisfied with the direction of the city. Meanwhile, about 54 percent of voters supported a referendum that would increase property taxes in order to fund a new $10 million performing arts center. Under the referendum’s language, residents of an owner-occupied residential property would have to pay about $10 more per year on a $100,000 home. Some minor problems were reported in one Myrtle Beach precinct after a battery died on one machine. County spokesman Mark Kruea said the number of votes cast in the precinct would not make a difference in either the mayor’s race or referendum.
Florence County: County voters overwhelmingly supported a renewal of the county’s additional 1-cent sales tax. Almost 64 percent of voters cast favorable ballots, despite the opposition from Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela and powerful State Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence). The revenue raised through the tax would go towards new fire stations and transportation projects.
Mount Pleasant: A freshman town councilmember and antiques shop owner handily won election as the town’s new mayor. Linda Page took 57 percent of the vote in a win over former councilman Joe Bustos and two other candidates. Page had the support of outgoing mayor Billy Swails. Page said the result was a sign that residents support her vision to keep the town on its present course.
Greenville County: Voters in two additional Greenville County towns decided to allow Sunday alcohol sales. 63 percent of voters in Travelers Rest supported a referendum that would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic drinks on Sundays in the town. It was a much narrower margin in Fountain Inn, where a similar question passed by just six votes.