A showdown in three Lexington Council races is coming after an unexpected five-month delay.
In each match, Republican candidates are back as petition challengers on the Nov. 6 ballot, after being kicked out of the June 12 GOP contest for failure to report finances properly.
The six petition candidates are banking on sympathy fueled by dismay at the S.C. Supreme Court ruling that took them off the primary ballot as a plus on the second go-round.
All qualified for the ballot by obtaining hundreds of signatures from voters, an effort the candidates hope will pay off at the polls.
“Strategically, I’m ecstatic,” said Brian Duncan, who is running for a council post in the Red Bank area. “It’s the best thing that happened to my campaign. It promises to boost me through the roof.”
But some political leaders warn petition drives don’t guarantee success at the ballot.
Winning as a petition candidate “is still a very challenging task,” said councilman Brad Matthews of Irmo, who did it in 2010 with a 32-vote victory.
Some petition candidates say making the ballot is the first part of a political marathon.
“I don’t think for a minute that everybody who signed a petition will vote for that candidate,” said Scott Adams, who is running in an area centered in the town of Lexington and nearby areas after gathering 1,800 signatures.
One hurdle that petition candidates face is breaking the tendency of many county residents to vote all-Republican and instead weigh candidates individually. In recent elections, two-thirds of ballots cast in the county were all-Republican, records show.
“It’s getting them comfortable about not voting straight-party,” said Megan Hutto, who is running in the Gaston-Swansea-Pelion area.
The six petition candidates preach Republican values such as fiscal conservatism and economic development.
County GOP leaders are even spreading the word that every petition candidate is acceptable.
Running as a petition candidate “hasn’t changed the way I approach it,” said Anthony Keisler, who is seeking the post against Adams and three others for the post held by retiring incumbent Smokey Davis of Lexington.
Like most of the others in that race, car dealer Darrell Hudson is promoting himself as a neighbor.
“I’m just a regular guy trying to get on County Council,” he said. “I’m not a politician.”
Wes Howard, also in that race, is blending social media with traditional techniques in that match.
“There’s all sorts of technology to help,” he said. “But it still a door-knocking, wear-shoe-leather-out campaign.”
Davis won’t indicate a preference for any of the five candidates seeking to be his successor in one contest.
Major decisions awaiting council after the election, he said, include:• Continuing to attract jobs that increase revenue and lessen the need for tax hikes.
• Laying the groundwork for a referendum on a new sales tax whose revenue would pay mainly for road improvements.
• Dealing with an influx of Internet gambling parlors.
For petition candidates, each race is winner-take-all.
Unlike the primary ballot, there won’t be an runoff in the one contest where there are more than two candidates.
It’s likely the victor in the field to succeed Davis will receive much less than a majority of votes.
Still, the races give voters a chance to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with council’s direction.
“They didn’t get that opportunity in June but they will get it in November,” Matthews said.