Board candidates seeking spotlight

Published 10:06 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

Staff Writer

The post-primary lull has ended.
With the general election about five months away, Beaufort County commissioner candidates are back on the campaign trail, preparing to get there or emphasizing the point that they never left.
“Don’t get complacent,” Commissioner Ed Booth reminded guests and members of the Beaufort County Democratic Women last month.
Booth, a Democratic incumbent from Washington, was the top vote-getter in the Dems’ May 4 primary.
Issuing a warning, he recalled that a couple of top vote-getters in previous primaries lost their November bids at ascendancy.
A check of the Daily News’ files revealed local businessman Billy Jefferson’s run in 2002. Jefferson was the top vote-getter in the 2002 Democratic primary with about 1,953 votes, compared to Republican Carol Cochran’s first-ranking, 947-vote finish in the GOP primary.
Yet, Jefferson didn’t win in November, and Cochran did. Giving the GOP a majority on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
Numerous observers said Jefferson’s supporters assumed he was secure and shifted their votes elsewhere.
The county Democratic organization has made taking back the board majority a priority in a year when three seats on the board are up for grabs.
The other two Democrats in the race are Jerry Evans of Washington and Sonya Shamseldin of Pinetown.
In his comments to the Democratic Women, Booth emphasized his re-election goal — which is less about getting his two fellow Democrats elected than it is about returning him to office in the fall.
“Ed Booth don’t wait until he’s running,” the candidate told the political club. “Ed Booth is here every month.”
On the other side of the partisan coin, two GOP commissioner aspirants helped fill out the speakers’ roster at a gathering of the Beaufort County Republican Women’s Club last week.
Bath resident Cindy Baldwin, who’s in the midst of her first run for a board seat, predicted “a tough year ahead” for the commissioners.
“Are they going to cut the spending or not?” she asked, soon indicating that she doesn’t believe substantial cuts are forthcoming.
Washingtonian and incumbent GOP Commissioner Al Klemm, who said he plans to kick-start his campaign Aug. 1, told the club the commissioners haven’t raised property taxes in the eight years since the past revaluation of all real property in the county.
The board has helped build the tax base and keep the tax rate at 60 cents per $100 valuation, Klemm said.
He did note that the property-tax burden will get heavier as taxpayers shell out more money as a result of revaluation.
“We need to rebuild Beaufort County and make Beaufort County prosperous,” Klemm proclaimed.
The other Republican in the race is incumbent Stan Deatherage of Washington.
As the parties ramp up electioneering near the start of what promises to be a busy summer, two local activists offered individual perspectives on what their favored candidates have to do to win this fall.
“I expect they’re going to have to figure out their strengths that differentiate them from the other ones,” said Ann Cherry, secretary of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
“I think a personal approach is better than mass mailings,” Cherry offered. “A lot of people are probably like me and discard that stuff as junk mail.”
Door-to-door campaigning is time-consuming but fairly cheap, she pointed out.
“People do appreciate being approached individually and being able to ask the candidates questions,” Cherry said.
Donna Lay, president of the Beaufort County Republican Women, said she wants “candidates who are conservative with taxpayers’ money and try to pattern the decisions they make with the Constitution.”
Lay said she makes an effort to look into the politicians for whom she votes.
“I think the Republican candidates, and especially the ones we have running now — I like every one of them,” she said.
Asked what her preferred office-seekers can do to earn the favor of voters, Lay offered the following advice: “Talking. Go out and talk, talk everywhere they can, talk individually to people and ask them: What do you expect of me, what do you want in a candidate?”
She said the candidates should let people know who they are and where they stand on the issues.
“The only way you can get that across is to go mouth to mouth, person to person,” Lay concluded.