Write-in candidate ousts incumbent, others head to run-off

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CHEROKEE CO., S.C. (WSPA) -Early voting results show a last minute write-in candidate beat a longtime incumbent City of Gaffney councilman and another newcomer is headed to a heated run-off with a familiar name. 

The Gaffney Ledger called Tuesday’s municipal elections in Cherokee County “historic.”

Write-in candidates historically have a tough time getting elected against familiar names but a controversial vote taken in June when council members gave themselves a 54% pay raise and didn’t tell citizens in advance may have been the difference, according to some candidates.

In fact, two write-in candidates who went toe to toe with incumbents told 7News the June vote and the public outcry that followed was the moment they decided to run on a “transparency platform.” 

In Gaffney City Council District 3, write-in candidate Monita “Bee Bee” Dawkins is the unofficial winner over longtime councilman Bernard Smith who has raised some issue with the counting of several write-in votes. As of Wednesday, Smith had not filed a challenge.

In District 4, last minute write-in candidate Steph Smith won enough votes to force a run-off in two weeks against another familiar name in Gaffney, incumbent Charles Montgomery.

Both first time candidates said they believe it came down to voters who were outraged over the lack of transparency in council chambers. 

“Everybody knew that we had concerns that city council voted themselves a 55% raise and that it wasn’t discussed with the voters,” said Dawkins.

Steph Smith agreed.

“I think it’s the aftermath and result of that. A lot of people were upset and instead of saying here’s how this is going to benefit you instead they said well we deserve it,” said Smith. 

Smith’s run-off opponent did not return multiple phone calls made by 7News Wednesday.

Dawkins’ opponent, Smith, told 7News over the phone that he is looking at his options for potentially challenging some of the write-in ballots.

Dawkins said she and her opponent on Tuesday are family friends and the election was nothing personal.

If Smith decides to official challenge the results, elections officials say he would have to do so before Friday when the votes are certified.

Two other races are headed to run-offs in Cherokee County on Aug. 28.

Voters will also head back to the polls to decide the races in school board districts 5 and 7.

Voters who did not vote on Tuesday are permitted to vote in the run-off.

Also, in Blacksburg veteran city councilman Mike Patterson became the town’s mayor-elect Tuesday night.

David Hogue, who has been mayor in Blacksburg for close to 30 years, is retiring.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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