With Election Day less than a month away, Beaufort County voters with a one-party habit are on the minds of both candidates for Beaufort County treasurer.
Doug Henderson, a 66-year-old Cat Island resident and retired banker, is challenging Republican incumbent Joy Logan as an independent petition candidate and says his campaign could succeed or fail based on the number of straight-party ballots cast.
"We've got to let Republican voters know that if they vote straight-ticket, they'll be voting for the incumbent," Henderson said. "The (voting) machines actually allow you to review your ballot, so we're hoping that people who do vote straight-ticket will take a little extra time to review their ballots and change that particular vote."
Democratic voters who cast a straight-ticket ballot will not cast a vote in the Treasurer's Office race or any other in which there is no Democratic candidate, according to county election officials.
Henderson considers himself a Republican, but Logan was the only candidate to file for the GOP primary before South Carolina's March 30 deadline.
But in May, former Treasurer's Office employee Casaundra White was arrested and accused of stealing more than $210,000 from public accounts. Later that month, county administrator Gary Kubic called on Logan to resign and the Beaufort County Council passed a resolution asking Logan to do the same. In June, an independent, largely critical audit of the Treasurer's Office was released to the public.
By that time, Henderson already was collecting the signatures he needed to appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as a petition candidate. He became Logan's first election opponent since the 1991 Republican primary.
Logan, who has served as treasurer since winning the general election later that year, said she expects her record of achievement and running under the party's banner will help her.
"So many people in this county seem to vote straight-ticket," Logan said. "We have a very strong Republican Party in Beaufort County, but I know there are a number of Democrats who want to vote for me as well, so they will have to know to vote for me if they're planning to vote straight-ticket. There's a learning curve for Republicans and Democrats in this race."
The Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections does not track the number of straight-party ballots cast, according to Scott Marshall, the agency's executive director.
Rachel Buie, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, said Republican straight-ticket voters could be the deciding factor on Election Day.
"That's really going to be a toss-up," Buie said. "They both have a lot of (Republican) supporters so there's really no way of telling how it's going to shape up. I wish Doug had come out before the primary filing deadline but he didn't. I think many people will ... vote for Joy because she is the Republican candidate."
Henderson said forthcoming campaign advertisements will include directions for straight-tickets voters on how to cast votes for him.