Tuesday was a very long election day in Beaufort County, with many unofficial results unknown until the wee hours of Wednesday.
Here are five things we learned.
School board flush
Voters in districts countywide sent the strongest signal of the day. They totally wiped out the old regime running the Beaufort County School District. Gone are former superintendent Jeff Moss, who resigned with a golden parachute this summer, and all his chief supporters on the school board. Incumbents Evva Anderson placed third below two new challengers in Bluffton, and Cynthia Gregory-Smalls was trounced on St. Helena Island. The people didn’t merely speak, they shouted.
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With three members of the “Moss Majority” thankfully not seeking re-election, the clean sweep is in place. Now the new board must live up to its promise by conducting public policy in public, and by treating each other with respect.
Never before has the Beaufort County public needed and deserved change like this, and the new board must deliver.
Voters not only passed a 1 percent transportation sales tax, to last four years or until $120 million is raised, but they approved by a surprising 10,000-vote margin.
With $80 million going to improve access to Hilton Head Island, it would have been easy for northern Beaufort County voters to say “no.” But they, too, voted for it, and the $30 million earmarked for numerous traffic improvements on Lady’s Island should prove worthy of that confidence.
The vote shows that people desperately want solutions to the rapid growth in Beaufort County, and public bodies need to address that in more effective ways than playing catch-up on roads and bridges.
And, Hardeeville, are you paying attention? When massive new development was announced by Hardeeville in the Okatie area, the city said developers would be paying for all the infrastructure. This vote shows that it doesn’t work out that way. The whole region needs to get a better grip on growth.
Voters again showed that they strongly support the public purchase of land and development rights as a growth-control and environmental-protection measure. The Beaufort County Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program got a $25 million boost, and now must be publicly accountable for the prudent spending of every penny. We’re proud of Beaufort County for this vote. It, too, shows a desperate plea for better growth control.
With voter turnout at a robust 58 percent, it was slow to vote and slow to know results in Beaufort County. What happened?
The vote appeared to be slow regionally and perhaps nationwide. But, still, the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Voter Registration needs to publicly dissect every facet of the voting process, including parking at the polls, number of machines available, the number of precincts voting within a given building, number of workers, number of technicians, etc. What more could be done to streamline voting, and why did it take so long to count the vote and post results?
Beaufort County is still red as a fireball, despite a healthy push by Democrats to place a candidate in all local races. And even with the stunning flip of U.S. House District 1 to Democrat Joe Cunningham, Beaufort County voters gave Republican Katie Arrington a strong, 6,000-vote cushion.
One result is that Republicans handily returned to the state House of Representatives continue to build seniority, which is the name of the game in the South Carolina Statehouse.