Last November, my little town held town council elections. Neither of the people I voted for won, and the two incumbents won reelection (there were two separate seats up, so we got to vote for two separate candidates).
In March, one of the Town Councillors resigned for reasons still unknown to me, which triggered a special election. I filed to run for Town Council on Friday, 13 March 2020—the Friday before all the schools in South Carolina shut down and went to distance learning.
With The Virus hitting, the special election was moved from its original date on Tuesday, 12 May to today, Tuesday, 14 July 2020. My plan was to keep it simple, just talking to people and maybe going door-to-door, but quarantining—as well as a good bit of time on the road this summer—prevented that. It also didn’t help that I was cooped up inside for two weeks with a gnarly virus (fortunately, I tested negative for The Virus, but I’m skeptical as to the accuracy of that test).
But that’s mostly me making excuses for myself. I could have done more. I did talk to my neighbor and a few other folks. One older man approached me while I was loading my car up one morning and complained about a house with caged pit bulls in the backyard; he wanted me to introduce an ordinance banning pit bulls “when you get elected.” I’ve actually given that a great deal of thought, and might explain my thinking on that proposal in a future post. It will certainly become more relevant if I get elected.
As for the campaign, I resolved to spend $0 campaigning. I didn’t do any fundraising, or even funded anything myself (other than spending $31 for the filing fee). There’s no need to spend scads of money in a local election in a town of approximately 950 people. Public office should be attainable to anyone, especially at the local level, and I want to see if that’s doable.
I did, however, create a small (free!) Facebook page eight days ago. I wrote a short post explaining my vision for the town:
My basic pitch: Lamar is centrally-located in a rapidly growing part of South Carolina. Working families, especially young ones just starting out, are finding it more difficult to buy homes in the larger neighboring municipalities. Lamar is well-positioned to welcome those young families with friendliness, affordable real estate, low taxes, and proximity to the three large towns in the area (not to mention two Interstates).
Our goal as a town should be to attract families to the area. My hope is that increased population can spur economic growth and prevent future fee increases, such as the 80% increase on garbage pickup (from $10 to $18 a month) and the $10 a month increase on both sewage and water bills (put simply: most Lamartians are paying $28 a month, or $336 a year, more on garbage, water, and sewage). Those fee increases were necessary to fund improvements to the water system, which the Town failed to inspect for years. Now the Town is finally doing testing after DHEC came down on us.
But preventing future increases should be the goal. The only way to do that is to attract more folks to Lamar. Fortunately, Lamar is attractive: it’s a beautiful town, with lots of greenery, a quaint downtown, and historical and natural beauty. We’re about ten minutes from Lee State Park, and nestled in the countryside—yet we’re also twenty minutes from the amenities of Florence.
I stumbled upon Lamar while taking students to Sumter for Quiz Bowl competitions. I always liked the homey feel of the town, and when I started looking for places to live, Lamar was on the top of my list. I was able to purchase a well-built, well-maintained home with a half-acre lot—two blocks from downtown—for less than what some people pay for a really nice truck.
That’s virtually impossible in any of the larger cities in the region. That’s why I think Lamar is in a unique position to grow in the years ahead—if people know we’re here.
As for my electability, I think I have a 50/50 shot. My opponent is from an old Lamar family and is well-known within the community. I’m an unknown newcomer. I’ve had a couple of people approach me to say they’re voting for me (like the anti-pit bull man).
The bigger factor is going to be turnout. It’s a rescheduled special election in mid-July. Most people probably don’t know there is an election today. Further, the spike of cases of The Virus will probably keep some people home who might otherwise vote. I’ll be surprised if fifty people show up to vote. That means a handful of votes could decide the outcome.
Regardless, we’ll know shortly after 7 PM tonight. I’ll drive by Town Hall around 7:30 or 8 PM to check the posted results, and will share those tomorrow.
If I win, I’ll probably do as Bill Buckley joked in his “paradigmatic” 1965 New York City mayoral campaign and “demand a recount.” I’ll probably also treat myself to a steak. Then it’s on the sobering business of governance.
If I lose, well, that’s fine, too. I’ll probably still get some steak.