Keech wants to replace Baldwin

Published 9:12 am Sunday, August 8, 2010

Staff Writer

Former Republican county commissioner candidate Tony “T.J.” Keech is offering to replace Cindy Baldwin on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election.
Citing personal reasons, Baldwin resigned her candidacy last week.
A number of local political observers, including the two remaining GOP candidates, have said Baldwin’s departure gives the party a better chance of hanging onto its majority on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners because it consolidates voting strength around the two candidates who are still in the race.
“Yeah, it does,” said Keech, “but also, with the way the political climate is today, there’s a chance we might get three seats with the Republican Party, and there’s no way to get three seats unless you offer three people.”
The GOP has a 4-3 advantage on the county board, though the faction doesn’t always vote along party lines.
Said Keech, “For the board to held by Republicans, there’s an awful lot of 5-2 votes, and that needs to change.”
Under state law, the executive committee of the Beaufort County Republican Party has until Aug. 19 — 75 days ahead of the election — to replace Baldwin on the ballot, Kellie Harris Hopkins, county elections director, confirmed last week.
The law doesn’t require the committee to name a replacement for a candidate who steps down, but the option is there, Hopkins related.
On Saturday, Chairman Larry Britt said the committee will meet to discuss its options at 5:30 p.m. Monday at party headquarters on Market Street in Washington.
Britt said he hadn’t spoken with Keech about his intentions, and added no one else has come forward as a possible candidate, so far as he is aware.
“I’m not making the decision,” Britt commented. “The executive committee’s purpose is to advance the Republican Party in Beaufort County — and that’s what we’ve got to consider, all the ramifications, not just for Tony’s benefit or for the election’s benefit or anybody else. We’ve got to look at how whatever we do will affect the status of the Republican Party in Beaufort County for this election. It’s not a question of just ‘finding someone.’”
Britt acknowledged a “diversity of opinion” within the party on the question of whether Baldwin should be succeeded by someone.
“It will be thoroughly discussed,” he said. “Nothing is pre-done.”
In interviews last week, incumbent Republican Commissioners Al Klemm and Stan Deatherage made it clear they’d prefer to leave things as they are.
“I would vote against it,” Klemm, who has a place on the executive committee, said when asked about nominating a replacement for Baldwin.
“At this point, if they wanted to run the first time, they should’ve run,” said Deatherage.
Keech, who sought his party’s nomination in the May 4 primary election, told the Daily News some local Republicans believe their party should have a third name on the ticket.
“A number of people in the community are wanting a third person,” he said.
Jay McRoy, one of the four Republicans on the county board, also serves on the executive committee.
“I think, for the good of the party, I would say it would be better to have only two running,” McRoy said. “I think that has proved in the past that was the best for the party. And I have nothing against Tony Keech.”
McRoy said he’d heard Keech wanted the nod, but had heard no other names mentioned.
For his part, Keech said hundreds of people voted for him and Baldwin in the primary.
“Those people wanted a third choice,” he added.
Keech finished the primary with 299 votes, or 13.52 percent, behind Baldwin, who ended up in third place with 344 votes, or 15.56 percent.
Because three seats are up on the county board, Baldwin advanced with incumbents Klemm and Deatherage, who placed second and first, respectively.
The three Democratic candidates are incumbent Ed Booth plus Jerry Evans and Sonya Shamseldin.
The unaffiliated candidate is Bertie Arnhols.