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Red tidal wave meets blue wall in Charleston County

By Lachlan McIntosh

It has long been said that Charleston is very different from the rest of South Carolina. This was proven once again on November 4th when a huge Republican tidal wave swept through the nation and pretty much took what’s left of the South Carolina Democratic Party out to sea with it. In the Palmetto State, Democrats were trounced like never before. The leading Democrats at the ballot box, Vincent Sheheen and Bakari Sellers, only received 41 percent of the vote. That’s six full points lower than the leading Democrat received statewide in 2010, the previous worst year.

But the GOP tidal wave that stretched from Maine to Alaska parted ways to spare Charleston County.

All Democrats on the statewide ballot did significantly better in Charleston County than statewide. Just like in 2010, Sheheen carried Charleston. Then his numbers here were four percentage points higher than statewide: This year they were eight points higher. Democratic candidate for secretary of state, Ginny Deerin, ran 11 points stronger here.

Democrats in districts considered competitive, such as S.C. Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, breezed to wins. Stavrinakis totaled 60 percent of the vote in a district Mitt Romney won two years ago. Anna Johnson won re-election to County Council more easily than anyone expected. In a district considered slightly Democratic at best, Johnson racked up 63 percent of the vote. In doing so she outperformed top-of-the-ticket Democrats like Sheheen in most precincts. In some precincts she significantly outperformed Sheheen. While some of margin can be attributed to her opponent’s well-noted wacky Facebook posts, her margin far exceeds the Democratic base there. Johnson’s win gave Democrats control of county council for another two years.

The only Republican bright spot in Charleston, Charlie Lybrand’s extremely narrow re-election win for RMC against newcomer Patrick Bell was hollow at best. The fact that Lybrand could only muster 51 percent of the vote in the most Republican year ever, against a guy who never ran for office before spells certain (and most likely career-ending) trouble for county Republicans running for re-election next cycle. Recall that 2016 is a presidential election year and Democratic turnout — African Americans, soccer moms and young voters — will most certainly rise disproportionately. Depending on their candidate recruitment success, Democrats in Charleston will likely be favored to sweep county offices like sheriff, coroner, clerk of court and treasurer.

Lachlan McIntosh is a political consultant based in Charleston. He consults for Democratic and independent candidates throughout the southern United States. He is a former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party and aid to Governor Jim Hodges.

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