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The strange business called politics

Posted: June 19, 2014 3:59 p.m.
Updated: June 20, 2014 5:00 a.m.

It was good to see a decent number of voters turn out for last week’s primary election. Percentage-wise, it still could have been much better, but primaries are not known for having long lines to the voting booth, especially in an "off year" such as this one.

The talk I’ve heard around our office and the county is there were few surprises from last Tuesday. The races for the two school board positions are definitely the exception. Congratulations to all the winners, but to have two incumbents unseated on the same night is rather rare. There’s no way to know what voters are thinking when they cast their ballots, but it’s highly likely the upcoming bond referendum influenced some voters. That, of course, includes the proposed consolidation of three outlying elementary schools, Bethune Elementary, Mt. Pisgah Elementary and Baron DeKalb Elementary. Most of the residents I have heard do not want those schools to close and those students sent to a new school near North Central High School. I guess we’ll have to wait until the November election to see how people really feel about it. In my experience, a vocal minority can and will make a lot of noise, but it’s the silent majority that ultimately prevails.

The real surprises didn’t come on Tuesday, June 10, but in the next couple of days. I was surprised when I learned last Thursday that Gene Hartis decided to withdraw from the runoff election for Kershaw County Council Chair this coming Tuesday. Hartis was the second place finisher in the Republican primary, behind Julian Burns and ahead of Ben Connell. Since Burns did not receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the three-way race, a runoff between he and Hartis was required. When Hartis dropped out of the race, that allowed Connell to move up and be the contender against Burns in the runoff. We will, of course, have those results for you here in your hometown paper.

An even bigger bomb was dropped last week when David Thomley, the losing candidate for Kershaw County Sheriff, filed a $2 million lawsuit against Sheriff Jim Matthews, who won the election by a handy margin. The suit, on the surface at least, has nothing to do with the campaign nor the election outcome, but alleges Matthews criticized Thomley’s role in investigating a case of alleged bullying and fighting at Camden Military Academy. Thomley says he was not involved in the investigation but claims Matthews accused him of withholding key evidence and being biased in the investigation. I’m waiting with great anticipation for chapter two to unfold.

On another subject, I want to commend the Kershaw County Council on approving the 2015 fiscal year budget at their meeting on Tuesday of this week. The gentlemen disagreed on some points, but they did so as gentlemen, with respect and civility towards each other. I was impressed and in my eyes they all want what is best for this county as a whole and as individual citizens. Sometimes people have different ideas on what path to take to a particular destination, even when they are trying to get to the same place. That’s what happened Tuesday, with raised voices and clever remarks kept to a minimum, as it should have been. I’m proud to report on their activities, although they don’t need my pride or admiration at all. They have it all the same.

More specifically, it’s good the council approved sheriff’s office deputies being paid overtime at the usual rate of "time-and-a-half." Under the present system, the more a deputy works, his overtime pay gets lower and lower, a practice called "Chinese overtime." Now, they will be paid overtime like other laborers and they certainly deserve that. Matthews has assured the council that any overtime hours will be necessary and approved by himself or other senior members of his staff, so the system will be fair and not abused. Congratulations, county council and Sheriff Matthews.

(Gary Phillips is a staff reporter for the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Email responses to gphillips@chronicle-independent.com.)

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