Three longtime Lexington County mayors face re-election challenges at the Nov. 3 ballot.
Tensions over development could be prompting more people to run, officials in some communities say.
"I'm kind of surprised to see this much," said veteran Chapin Mayor Stan Shealy, who is unopposed for re-election. "But if your ox is being gored, you're going to come out."
Local disputes laid the groundwork for the battles over the top post in three towns:
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- In Batesburg-Leesville, Councilman Steve Cain is trying to oust Mayor James Wiszowaty. Cain has feuded with town leaders over police and fire operations, a new water plant, town manager Joan Taylor's performance and lack of salaries for council members during the past four years. Even if he loses, Cain remains a councilman.
- In Pine Ridge, Mayor David Busby is engaged in his first race in 16 years after conflict over a proposed small retail center.
- In Swansea, Mayor Ray Spires faces two challengers who promise better fiscal responsibility and openness.
Those are the types of disputes once worked out among neighbors that are mushrooming into confrontations, as consensus becomes harder to reach, officials elsewhere said.
"We're becoming more combative," Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre said. "It's a sign of our times."
Busby is learning campaigning anew.
He admits to being "a little bit" rusty but plans "to be beating the bushes" as he contacts residents old and new.
Small-town races largely are a matter of trust among neighbors, Spires said.
It's also a measure of satisfaction with Town Hall's direction and operation.
Doris Simmons, one of two challengers to Spires, pledges more openness about town operations and wants questions answered "with a smile."
Shealy, who's turned back challengers in his 28 years as Chapin mayor, said newcomers who win learn that holding office is complicated.
Getting things done often takes longer and routine matters like correcting problems with trash pickup usually take precedence over campaign goals, he said.
"Most people running the first time don't have a clue about what they're getting into," he said. "There's a whole lot more to municipal government than people realize."