Yesterday Lamar held a rescheduled special election for a vacant Town Council seat. I was hoping to have the results last night, but when I drove by Lamar Town Hall around 8:30 PM, the results were not posted to the front door.
I spoke with Darlington County Election Commissioner Hoyt Campbell this morning, however, and he gave me the results over the phone. He also said the poll workers might have posted the voting machine receipts to one of the side doors of Town Hall. Sure enough, I drove down there this morning and they were on a side door. That occurred to me last night, but the prospect of lurking around a public building at dusk struck me as a tad sketchy.
The results were surprising—shocking, really. This little off-cycle, middle-of-summer, Age of The Virus election came with an interesting twist.
There were two filed candidates: William “Buzz” Segars and myself. However, neither of us won the election. Apparently, there was a strong write-in campaign for Mary Anne Mack, who ultimately won with a whopping 62.8% of the votes (a full breakdown of the numbers if below).
Write-in campaigns are notoriously difficult to pull off successfully. South Carolinian Strom Thurmond famously won write-in campaign in a landslide in 1954, winning a US Senate seat. As Mr. Campbell told me, he’s been working elections for years and has never seen anything like the results for Lamar’s special election.
There were a total 137 votes cast. Lamar is made up of two precincts; Lamar No. 1 is south of Main Street, and demographically is more heavily African-American than Lamar No. 2, which is located north of Main Street. In big general elections the two precincts vote in different locations, but for Town Council elections, they vote together at Town Hall.
Here is the breakdown of vote totals by precinct:
Lamar No. 1 – 67 total votes
Tyler Cook – 2
Buzz Segars – 0
Write-In (for Mary Ann Mack) – 65
Lamar No. 2 – 70 total votes
Tyler Cook – 26
Buzz Segars – 23
Write-In (for Mary Ann Mack) – 21
Total Votes per Candidate and Percentage of Total Vote – 137 total votes
Tyler Cook – 28 votes, 20.4%
Buzz Segars – 23 votes, 16.8%
Write-In (for Mary Ann Mack) – 86 votes, 62.8%
Winner: Mary Ann Mack (86 votes, 62.8%)
Here is a photograph of the poll’s receipt for reference:
It was an unusual election all around. With quarantining and social distancing, it was difficult to get out and meet people, as everyone is hunkered down (myself included). There wasn’t really any campaigning out in the open, at least not that I saw. I created a Facebook page about eight days out from the election, in which I spelled out my vision for Lamar.
Conditions were ripe for a coordinated write-in campaign: the election was rescheduled; nobody could really get out and stump; there were no public forums, etc., in which the candidates could present their goals to voters.
I will offer more detailed analysis in this Saturday’s edition of SubscribeStar Saturday. Some of my insights, while I believe accurate, are a bit spicy, and should be behind a paywall.
Overall, I am satisfied with the outcome, bizarre as it is. I fared far better than I imagined. My intuition is that, had Ms. Mack not run his dark horse write-in campaign, I would have won. Most of the (very likely African-American) voters from Lamar No. 1 would not have bothered voting; those that did, I think, would have cast their votes for me. Based off of Mr. Segars’s performance in Lamar No. 1, I suspect that hunch is correct.
I also won—very narrowly—over Mr. Segars in Lamar No. 2, where our natural base of support derives. The results would have been much closer and less skewed—assuming none of Ms. Mack’s voters materialized, I would have won the election 28-23, or 54.9% to 45.1% (that margin looks way more impressive expressed as percentages, but it’s only five votes).
But, of course, Ms. Mack’s voters did materialize, and handed her a landslide. Kudos to her for pulling off such a feat. She definitely earned the seat.
All that said, I am encouraged, and am very interested in running in 2021, when two Council seats (including this one) are up for election. I’ve got a lot of work to do in the interim, but it’s worth a shot. Lamar has loads of potential.
For any Lamartians reading this post, thank you for your support. It means a lot.
Time for some consolation steak.