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Connell wins KCC District 3 seat; Smith takes school board Seat 5

Turnout ‘very light,’ says voter registration director

Posted: June 16, 2016 5:39 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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James Smith ... will be new school board trustee for District 5

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Ben Connell will become a Kershaw County Councilman, representing District 3, replacing C.R. Miles who chose not to run for reelection. According to unofficial totals provided by the County Voter Registration Director John Caughman, Connell defeated Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons in the Republican primary, 232 to 166, taking 58 percent of the vote. Votes are being certified today.

Connell’s name will appear on the ballot in November as the Republican nominee. However, as there is no Democratic opposition, Connell will take the District 3 seat in January.

In an email, Connell -- who left Wednesday for a family vacation to Myrtle Beach -- thanked everyone who offered encouragement and support for his campaign.

“Elgin is a great place to call home because of the wonderful people who live in Kershaw County District 3,” he said. “It has been a humbling, yet inspiring experience. To the current county council and staff -- thank you for your leadership and service which has produced our most significant economic growth in recent history.”

Connell said he is eager to work with members of county council, the county’s legislative delegation, Elgin Town Council, the county’s highway commissioner and others to “improve economic development, education and the quality of life in our community.”

Emmons congratulated Connell via a Facebook post Tuesday night saying she looked forward to working with him and felt he would “do a great job representing District 3 on Kershaw County Council.”

In another local race, James P. Smith will become the new holder of Seat 5 on the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. Smith defeated incumbent Trustee Louis Clyburn Jr., 322 to 147, or 69 to 31 percent.

Smith, who is the senior pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Camden, thanked Clyburn for the work he has done while serving on the board and for running “an honorable, professional” campaign.

“I am truly humbled and honored at the trust that the people of Kershaw County have placed in me and will do everything in my power to be a good steward of that trust,” Smith said in an email Thursday. “A school in a community helps make it viable. My desire is for all of Kershaw County to have healthy, strong schools that produce students who are prepared, equipped and inspired to give back to their community and to the world.”

Smith went on to say the district has the resources -- and needs to be sure those resources are used correctly -- for every school and student to succeed.

Stopping by the Chronicle-Independent offices Thursday morning, Clyburn said he reached out to Smith on Tuesday night.

“I congratulated Rev. Smith and offered him my support. I will continue to work for the best education in Kershaw County as a concerned citizen,” he said.

In a written statement, Clyburn said he wanted to thank the people not only in school board District 5, but all the people in Kershaw County for their support.

“Not only for me, but the Kershaw County School District,” he said. “Education is a powerful tool used to change the world, and it is critical in securing our future.”

Clyburn also thanked his family for their support during the election.

“I have been taught to give thanks even when the circumstances do not turn out as we had hoped. I want to thank God, even though I lost the election and it is difficult and painful, He chose it for me. God closed this door for my good and so by faith, I thank Him for the good He is going to do in my life through it,” Clyburn said.

Other primaries Kershaw County residents voted in included a Republican primary for U.S. House of Representatives District 5, and Democratic primaries for S.C. State House of Representative districts 50 and 80.

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney handily won his primary over challenger Ray Craig, 995 to 284, or 78 to 22 percent. Mulvaney will face challenger Fran Pearson in November. Pearson, a former aide for U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination. American candidates Rudy Barnes Jr. and Larry Gaither will also be running against Mulvaney in November.

According to Caughman, it appeared likely there will be a runoff election June 28 for the S.C. House 50 seat, as there was no clear winner between the two top Democratic candidates seeking to replace longtime S.C. Rep. Grady Brown. Caughman said it appeared the runoff would be between Will Wheeler, who garnered the most votes in Kershaw County with 49 (36 percent), and Tom Drayton who received 36 Kershaw County votes (26 percent). 

Whoever wins the runoff will win the seat as there are no Republican candidates slated for November. S.C. House 50 represents portions of the Antioch, Bethune and Cassatt communities in Kershaw County.

Meanwhile, S.C. House 80 Rep. Jimmy Bales will remain in office for another two years, defeating challengers Brian Burke and Lawrence Moore in a Democratic primary. Bales received 66 votes in Kershaw County (44 percent), Moore 54 votes (37 percent) and Burke 27 votes (18 percent).

Bales will keep his seat in the state legislature as there are no Republican candidates for him to face in November. S.C. House 80 represents certain portions of the southwestern area of the county in and around Elgin.

Caughman said turnout for Tuesday’s primaries and school board election were “light, very light.” He said turnout for the school board Seat 5 election was 9.12 percent while turnout for the various primaries, including county council Seat 3, was only 3.79 percent.

The general election is slated for Nov. 8 and may include construction and sales tax referenda from the Kershaw County School District in addition to the election for the next president of the United States.

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