Pastor Ivory Thigpen is knocking on doors and sending out new mailings. Richland 2 school board member Monica Elkins is contacting some of the thousands of students and parents who she met in more than two decades as an educator.
Both candidates know that after months of campaigning and tens of thousands of dollars spent, voter turnout – or the lack thereof – will decide Tuesday’s House District 79 Democratic primary runoff.
“I would venture to say that most people don’t even know there’s a runoff,” Richland County Democratic Party chairman Jay Parmley said. “They have to go back to their core, core supporters that they have developed during their campaign, and you have to impress upon them why (they) need to go back and vote.”
Pundits expect voter turnout to be light – likely less than 10 percent of the eligible voters – in the race for the seat that state Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, is vacating to run for state Senate.
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Less than 16 percent of voters in heavily Democratic Richland County cast ballots in the June 14 primary, with Thigpen finishing just 31 votes ahead of Elkins. Tuesday’s runoff is one of just two races on Richland County ballots.
“Every vote matters,” said Thigpen, whose platform hasn’t changed since the primary.
That platform is visible on white T-shirts that read H.O.P.E. – an acronym for healing racial tensions, opposing domestic and drug abuse, promoting public safety, and expanding funding for health care and education.
But Thigpen has tweaked his strategy for the runoff.
Last week, Thigpen sent out mailings listing his supporters – including Democratic state Sens. Darrell Jackson, Joel Lourie and John Scott – in the Northeast Richland district.
In bold red letters at the top, the mailings read: “I need your vote again.”
“We have a more well-rounded message, or dare I say a message period,” Thigpen said.
Elkins has pledged to fight for teachers in the State House.
She wants to hire and retain the best teachers and student resource officers, boost educators’ pay and put a full-time nurse in every school.
“I always tell people I’m not a politician,” Elkins said. “I’m an educator who cares and wants to make a difference in my state.
Elkins said she also cares deeply about expanding health care and pushing for gun control, adding some of her former students have been on both ends of gun violence.
“I’ve been to many funerals that really disturbed me, when I see young people getting shot for nothing,” she said.
The winner will run against Republican Donald Miles and Libertarian Victor Kocher in the Nov. 8 general election.
House District 79 runoff
The Democratic runoff candidates
Education: Columbia High School; S.C. State University, bachelor’s and doctorate; Columbia College, master’s; Cambridge College, special degree in education
Family: Married to Gardner Johnson
Job: Self-employed, educational consultant for Allendale County Schools; Richland 2 school board member; former teacher and principal
Money raised for election as of June 1: $30,198
Cash available to spend: $88
Education: Jackson State University, bachelor’s; Morehouse School of Religion, master’s; Palmer College of Chiropractic, doctorate
Family: Married to Martia Thigpen, four children
Job: Pastor, Rehoboth Baptist Church; chiropractor and owner, Restore Chiropractic
Money raised for election as of May 30: $31,148
Cash available to spend: $9,835
The State newspaper asked each candidate the three issues they regard as most important:
1. Improving S.C.’s K-12 education
2. Cracking down on domestic violence and gun violence
3. Expanding health care
1. Upgrading S.C.’s roads and infrastructure
2. Expanding health care
3. Funding K-12 education