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Election 2016: Senate campaign opens with arrest of one candidate

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

A candidate for the S.C. Senate District 34 seat and Horry County Council was arrested this week after being accused of seeking $20,000 to drop out of the council race.

Dick Withington, 72, of Myrtle Beach was charged with inducement to file for, or withdraw from, candidacy for election, according to an arrest warrant. Withington was seeking the Republican nomination for Horry County Council District 4 along with incumbent Gary Loftus.

The warrant says Withington offered to drop out of the council race if four Horry County residents would pay him $5,000 each. Officer Ryan Seipt of the Horry County Police Department said he coordinated an undercover operation where Withington accepted $5,000 as one of the payments.

Loftus said he couldn’t discuss details of the case when contacted Wednesday morning. Names of the victims were redacted on the police report.

Despite the arrest, Withington remains one of four candidates seeking the state Senate seat being vacated by Ray Cleary. He is a former candidate for Georgetown County Council and for Congress. He and Reese Boyd III filed within the past week, joining Stephen Goldfinch and Joe Ford in the GOP primary. Goldfinch and Boyd are former law partners.

Ford said the crowded field may make it more difficult for one candidate to gather more than 50 percent of the vote on June 14, necessitating a runoff. With no Democratic candidates filing for the seat, the primary winner will go into November unopposed.

Ford said his focus during the campaign will be ethics in government. He hears concern about roads and infrastructure and education from the public. “You can’t have either one,” he said, “if you don’t have an ethical open government.” He said a few members of the General Assembly control the flow of money to roads and education. “I can’t fathom how a few members control the House and Senate,” he said. “It’s almost ridiculous. You are told to stand in line and wait your turn.”

Ford said he would push for more state lottery money to be spent on elementary and secondary education rather than colleges.

Goldfinch, who is leaving his state House seat to run for the Senate, said his emphasis will be jobs. “It’s got to be about jobs,” Goldfinch said.

He said education, roads and comprehensive tax reform are three factors in bringing jobs to South Carolina. “We’ve got to think outside the 1950’s manufacturing model schools we have now,” he said. “We have successfully provided a STEM magnet program in Georgetown County. I chaired that project.”

He said Georgetown County is primed for high-tech manufacturing. It doesn’t require infrastructure or an interstate highway. “The piece that is missing,” he said, “is education.”

Goldfinch said the completion of Interstate 73 and the Southern Evacuation Life Line in Horry County would be another inducement for manufacturers to move to the state. He said constituents want the roads for hurricane evacuation. “With 18 million people coming to the beach every year, a hurricane in the middle of the season would be a disaster,” he said.

Goldfinch said he would favor comprehensive tax reform that shifts the burden from income taxes to consumption or flat taxes. “Favorable tax treatment is what companies are looking for,” he said. “Texas and Tennessee are eating our lunch in terms of taxes.”

Boyd said he wants to bring a voice for conservative reform to the Senate. “There’s been an effort to bring reform to the Senate for decades,” he said. “This election brings a historic opportunity.”

He would oppose tax increases and champion “real constructive reform” of the legislature, Boyd said. He is an advocate for school choice as well as transparency in the budget process. In addition, he said he wants to make inefficient agencies more accountable and make them more responsive to the taxpayers.

No challenger in House district, but sheriff faces two

Barring a write-in, Lee Hewitt of Murrells Inlet will be the next member of the South Carolina House from District 108. No other Republican and no Democrat filed by the noon deadline Wednesday.

But other local races produced some late-filers.

There will be a three-way race for Georgetown County sheriff in November. Birt K. Adams of Georgetown will run on the Independence Party ticket, joining Lane Cribb, the incumbent Republican, and Darryl Carr, a Democrat, on the November ballot.

Adams said he has 25 years of law enforcement experience in New York City, Spartanburg, Georgetown Police Department and the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. “My campaign,” he said, “will be based on trying to clean up the system of injustice inside the department.” He said the sheriff’s office is not hitting illegal drug activity hard enough and has forgotten about family values and community policing.

Carr ran as a petition candidate four years ago when many challengers for office were disqualified by a court decision regarding their paperwork. He received almost 9,000 votes. “I want to be a sheriff for everyone, not just a select few,” he said.

Cribb filed for a sixth term as sheriff shortly after the books opened March 14. “I’ve got too many things going on,” he said. “I don’t want to stop.”

Independence Party candidates also filed for County Council District 3, held by Democrat Leona Miller, and for coroner. In that race, incumbent Republican Kenny Johnson faces a challenge from Russ Graham, a funeral home owner, and Democrat Ryan Pitts.

State Rep. Carl Anderson in District 103 faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Dewon Huggins of Conway. No Republican filed.

U.S. 7th District Rep. Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach, a Republican, will have a challenger in November. Mal Hyman, a professor at Coker College in Hartsville will run as a Democrat.

Hyman, who has taught sociology and political science for 28 years, said the coast must be protected against offshore oil drilling and he believes the nation should do all it can to minimize the effects of climate change.

The economy, he said, has left voters hungry for change in Washington. “After 70 months of job growth, millions are still left behind,” Hyman said.

Rice, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, is seeking a third term.

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