Yes, you heard right. Britney has dumped her husband Kevin Federline after 25 glorious months, two kids, and one bizarre reality show. Since we had no experts to analyze this epic news story, we'll go with the page two news that a little more than half of South Carolina's voters decided the fate of the rest on Nov. 7, sending a host of Republicans to statewide office (and possibly Democrat Jim Rex).
Gov. Mark Sanford was reelected. Thomas Ravenel sent Grady Patterson into a long-delayed retirement. Though facing recounts at press time, Lt. Gov. André Bauer seemed poised to keep his job, Rep. Wallace Scarborough (R-James Island) beat back scandal to keep his seat by a narrow 40 votes, and Rex provided the only statewide Democratic success by beating Republican Karen Floyd with a slim 507-vote victory.
Paul Thurmond carried on his father's tradition of public service by winning the District 9 County Council seat, while Democrat Leon Stavrinakis won John Graham Altman III's former state House seat.
For more on the election, take a look at www.scvotes.org. For more on Britney, look anywhere else.
Peninsula, Folly say no to discrimination, but South Carolina welcomes marriage amendment
Twenty states had already approved amendments to their constitutions limiting marriage to straight couples before South Carolina approved a marriage amendment last week that also attacked common law arrangements and banned extending government benefits that are associated with marriage to gay couples. South Carolina Equality Coalition and the local Alliance for Full Acceptance hoped their efforts would dull the more than 80 percent support for the amendment that had been expected.
The final results statewide weren't that much better, at 78 percent, but there were strong pockets that voted against the measure, providing some hope for gay advocacy groups. In Charleston County, the peninsula voted down the amendment with 51 percent. On Folly Beach, the amendment was defeated by a similar margin and pockets of James Island and St. Andrews also opposed the amendment.
"Those are great signs that we've done some incredible work," says Warren Redman-Gress, director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, noting that more education is obviously needed. "I don't think people really understood the implications of the amendment."
The effort to overturn the amendment has already begun. But before the question returns to voters, gay advocates will have to educate a legislature that overwhelmingly supported this year's ballot question. Meanwhile, AFFA and other groups will have to combat other anti-gay legislation that's likely to receive renewed interest since the amendment passed, including efforts to prevent gays from adopting.
"When legislation like this has passed in other states, it's created an atmosphere where other rights are chipped away one by one," Redman-Gress says.
Word from the polls on Election Day was that lines were long and voters were heading out to stand in the rain to make sure their vote counted. Well, it seems they may have been waiting in line to check out the lunch menu at the local public schools, but they weren't voting. Charleston County's voter turnout was the worst in 20 years. God knows it wasn't because they didn't read about it in the press (our hands still hurt from the weeks of typing) or that they didn't see anything about it on the news (we saw those TV reporter types in person the morning after the election and they looked beat).
Next time, don't take our word for it. Vote!
Goodloeheads (mostly) successful; Ravenel wins, but leads thinning opposition
Former Congressman Arthur Ravenel Jr. may have been the top vote-getter in the crowded Charleston County School Board race, but it's likely his joy was muddled by a little reality. After filing opened in the nonpartisan race earlier this year, Ravenel led the conservative A-Team, made up of incumbents Lurline Fishburne, Ray Toler and Sandi Engelman, along with fellow former Congressman Robin Beard. The "A" was for accountability, with the group openly calling for greater board oversight. Others saw it as three persistent foils of the administration calling in Ravenel and Beard as reinforcements to oust Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and take a blunt object to the three-year-old Charleston Plan for Excellence.
The A-Team's three incumbents, along with Engelman's husband, David, who wasn't up for election, would often oppose district initiatives, creating a 5-4 split for many board decisions, says Jon Butzon, director of the nonprofit Charleston Education Network.
"Sometimes it was for money issues and sometimes for personal issues – and then sometimes it was for no discernible reason," he says.
Engelman eventually left the A-Team over squabbles over who would lead the board once the A-Team was successful. Come election night, only Toler, running unopposed, would join Ravenel on the board. Instead, incumbent Gregg Meyers and newcomers Toya Hampton Green and Ruth Jordan won the other seats. All three have been strong supporters of the superintendent and the Charleston Plan for Excellence.
"It was a vote of confidence about the work they've seen so far," says Maria Goodloe-Johnson, noting continuity in leadership is important.
While the board shift dulls the opposition to 6-3 (Ravenel, Toler, and David Engelman), Ravenel's victory may signal people want traction, if not change, Butzon says.
"I think folks are saying, by and large, they like the idea that the district has a plan and they're following it," he says. "Folks would like to see more progress faster and that might be what got Mr. Ravenel elected."
While one could argue the pitfalls of Fishburne and Beard, Sandi Engelman likely sealed her own fate. While fending off questions about her travel expenses on a radio program weeks before the election, Engelman said Goodloe-Johnson, a black woman, was always on "CPT." While the world considers the acronym to mean "colored people's time," Engelman claimed it meant "certain people's time."
Asked her thoughts on Sandi Engelman's exit, Goodloe-Johnson claims, "I haven't given it a thought." When pressed, she says that, unlike Engelman, she'll keep her opinion private.
As for Ravenel's ascension, the superintendent says that she welcomes his calls for accountability.
"I look forward to working with everybody," she says. "I expect them to ask questions."
Ravenel's value may not be the questions he'll have, but the suggestions he could bring, Butzon says.
"One thing he (Ravenel) understands is that you don't just say no," he says. "You need to offer another alternative, if not a better alternative."
The election results also offer up a more diverse school board. Though more than half of the district's students are black, only one of the members of the school board was black prior to Nov. 7. With Hampton Green and Jordan, the board made a significant move toward broader representation.
"It makes the body more credible and brings a level of knowledge and experience that's valuable," Butzon says.
One of the oddities in the school board election was the lack of votes in each race. While every voter in Charleston County is supposed to vote for each seat, more than 18,000 voters didn't vote in at least one of the races, meaning those who didn't vote could have changed the outcome in any of the races.
Charleston: Tangled up in blue
That pale blue color on Charleston's porch ceilings may keep more than bad spirits away – it may ward off Republicans as well. While we at the City Paper know what it's like to run against the grain of conservative South Carolina (some even suggest our candidate endorsements are a curse), Charleston voters also turn a little blue at the polls. On election night, while Democrats Robert Barber and Grady Patterson were winning in Charleston by wide margins, Republicans Andre Bauer and Thomas Ravenel were winning in the rest of the state. Other Republicans squeaked through with wins in Charleston for Comptroller General, Adjutant General, and Agriculture Commissioner; each won with much wider margins statewide.
- Democrats Robert Barber and Grady Patterson won Charleston, but lost to André Bauer and Thomas Ravenel, respectively, statewide. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) Easily won re-election.
In other examples, 17 percent of voters went with a straight Republican ticket in Charleston County, but more than 24 percent voted straight Democrat and Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn received 76 percent support from Charleston voters, even though his district-wide support was only 64 percent.
Voters overwhelmingly support tax cap
Even those opposed to the proposed 15 percent cap on reassessments saw the writing on the wall long before Election Day.
"If you ask the general question, 'Do you want to cap taxes?' everybody is going to say yes," says Gary Cannon, legislative liaison for the South Carolina Municipal Association, a dogged opponent of the measure since it was approved early this year by the legislature as part of promised tax reforms.
And predictably, the voters overwhelmingly said yes. The amendment passed with 73 percent of the vote in Charleston County and by 69 percent statewide.
The problem the Municipal Association recognized was that a tax cap benefits only about a third of taxpayers and leads to higher taxes for the other 66 percent of taxpayers.
"The impact is going to come at the next reassessment," Cannon says.
As property is reassessed, local governments are forced to roll back tax rates so that they don't receive more from the taxpayers than they received before. Under market values, that would normally shift the tax burden to those properties that appreciated greatly in value, while decreasing the tax bills for property owners who saw little appreciation or whose property, like mobile homes and automobiles, actually depreciated.
Under a cap, properties that appreciated greatly in value get a tax break in that the increase in the value of their property over 15 percent isn't factored into their tax bill.
"So cities and counties won't be able to roll back the (tax) rate as much as they could have," Cannon says.
What that means is that some taxpayers that would have seen a cut in their taxes under standard reassessment will see a tax hike and other property owners who will still see a decrease in their tax bill won't see as much of a cut. But for beachfront homes or in-demand neighborhoods, the benefits of the tax cap could be nothing short of a windfall as thousands of dollars in tax collections for a single home are instead dispersed among all taxpayers.
More massaging of the tax system is likely when the legislature returns to the Statehouse in January. There's been talk of limiting local government spending while continuing to limit local governments' abilities to charge fees or local taxes as an alternative to property taxes.
"With the current environment in Columbia, I'm not sure they're willing to provide more flexibility for us," Cannon says.
It's more likely that the legislature will finally take on the daunting task of reworking the state's entire tax structure as the clock starts ticking to Nov. '08, when all 170 legislators face the voters.