By Taylor Hall
If you haven’t heard it yet, I’m sure an over-eager Democrat near you will soon be bellowing, “Charleston County is turning blue!” Prima facie, it is easy make that argument. Democrats did have some success in Charleston in 2014. Besides, wasn’t 2014 supposedly a “wave election” for Republicans? The answer is yes, it was a wave election and Democrats have little to be excited about.
To start, 2014 is most closely compared to 2010, when South Carolina Republicans swept all statewide offices in a national wave election. The differences between 2010 and 2014, however, are what should make Democrats worry.
The cycle saw a precipitous drop in voter turnout statewide: 51.89 percent in 2010 compared to 43.79 percent in 2014. In Charleston County, turnout was even worse at an abysmal 39.91 percent (47.8 percent in 2010). Additionally, despite 35,000 newly registered voters in Charleston County since 2010, the vote total dropped from 104,087 in 2010 to 100,935 in 2014. What changed to bring about such a monumental change? A severe shortage of competitive races. When voters from one party sense multiple one-sided races, many don’t bother to vote. 2014 lacked competitive state and federal elections, while 2010 had competitive state and federal races. Many Republicans simply didn’t bother showing up throughout Charleston County.
Democrats will also point to the governor’s race as an electoral sign, but it is mere fools gold. In 2010, Vincent Sheheen won 50.57 percent in Charleston County collecting almost 52,000 votes. In 2014, Sheheen only garnered 48.5 percent of vote with 48,447 votes — less than a thousand votes more than Gov. Haley who had 47,735. A razor-thin win for Sheheen in Charleston County compared to his 3,000-vote margin in 2010.
Other races proved equally dismal for Democrats with Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Alan Wilson, Henry McMaster, Molly Spearman and Richard Eckstrom all winning Charleston County with Democrat competition. In 2010, two of the aforementioned state races went for Democrats in Charleston County and Republicans narrowly won two others. Not so in 2014.
In case you’re counting, that is both senate seats and seven of nine state offices for Republicans. This is hardly the mark of a “blue” county.
While statewide candidate Ginny Deerin did win Charleston County, her crossover appeal as both a Charleston native and an advocate of conservative fiscal policies made her the exception to the rule. So while Democrats seek a ray of hope following the repudiation of liberal Democrat policies, it will not be found in Charleston County.
Taylor Hall is a communications and political consultant in Charleston. Hall has worked in politics in South Carolina and Tennessee. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.