Sanford and Trump

The June 12 Republican Party primary held a couple of big surprises.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus’ defeat by political newcomer Johnny Gardner topped the list. I was also shocked to see Congressman Mark Sanford of Charleston lose his re-election bid, mainly because of his criticism of President Trump.

And, lest we forget, the integrity of the election process became tarnished by a series of human and computer failures that kept the final outcome of the chairman’s race in limbo until Saturday.

After the mandatory recount, Gardner kept his hair-thin victory over Lazarus by only 113 votes. The two candidates must have been sweating bullets in the hours and days following the primary.

“Carolina Forest Chronicle Editor Charles Perry gave this report of the fiasco:

On Tuesday night, election officials said they had problems with some voting machines and they didn’t know how many ballots hadn’t been counted. By Wednesday, they suspected the totals did not include 200 votes from the Little River area.

By Thursday morning, they realized staff had mixed up paperwork for two precincts and they didn’t believe any votes were missing.

But when the state couldn’t confirm the county’s numbers on Thursday afternoon, they realized a poll worker hadn’t accounted for all the votes at the Ocean Forest 2 precinct, which is at the Myrtle Beach YMCA.

Sure enough, officials hadn’t counted about 200 votes.

The elections office worked late into the night Friday trying to finalize their results with state election officials, but eventually workers at the State Election Commission went home, doubting the local staff could get its work done Friday night.

Once everything was in order Saturday, officials recounted the ballots and confirmed the results.

Shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, the commission announced the final results.”

So, we have a winner, but what a mess local election officials made of the process.

I didn’t realize Lazarus faced so much discontent going into the primary. I did not think his opponent had the strong name recognition needed to unseat the incumbent.

Gardner ran a very smart campaign, tapping into frustration many county employees have over pay and benefits. Lazarus shot himself in the foot when he walked out of a meeting in Burgess when some of those discontented folks grilled him on this issue.

With a light voter turnout, county employees were able to swing the election in Gardner’s favor.

Further south of us, I learned that Rep. Sanford, a man who formerly represented our county in Congress, had been defeated by his Republican Party rival.

Sanford had a slim lead days before the primary, but President Trump broadcast a message on Twitter on election day that galvanized Trump supporters.

Afterwards, Sanford admitted “I wasn’t Trump enough.”

What message does this send to others in Congress? Is allegiance to Trump now the official Republican Party line?

Well, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump a “kook,” now plays golf with Trump to keep his political career alive.

It seems politics does, indeed, make strange bedfellows.

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Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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