Aiken County Democrats deal with minority status

AIKEN --- Getting the vote out isn't always a cake walk for Democrats, the minority party in Aiken County with about 400 active members.


But party leaders are encouraged that while other small groups like the Tea Party are picking up support, they too can energize voters.

Much of this election cycle's campaign stumping hasn't happened through larger forums or publicized speeches, but through gatherings in homes, said Aiken County Council member Willar Hightower.

"We've found the most effective way of dealing with candidates is to have them drop into homes," he said. "It's more intimate, and everyone gets to talk to the candidates. And in an off-year election, word of mouth is just the best way."

On Thursday, Democrats chose the community room at Aiken Electric Cooperative to hold a fish fry for Rob Miller, who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, and Marjorie Johnson, who is running for South Carolina secretary of state against incumbent Mark Hammond.

Although lifelong Democrat Ken Ward said he sometimes does feel like an underdog in Aiken County, he feels voters, regardless of party affiliation, will change how they approach the polls in November because they have grown tired of multiple-term candidates and the status quo.

"It's our job to educate and make sure they have the best information when they head to the polls," he said. "That's all we can do."

While rural and more urban areas of the state, such as Dillon, Marlboro, Charleston and Richland counties, tend to bleed deeper blue, Aiken County has shown gains in statewide volunteering and participation by Democrats, said Kieana Page, the state party communications director.

"It's always hard to judge how many are registered with either party and see that support in tangible numbers because South Carolina doesn't require party registration, but as we move closer to election time you see local offices' support pick up," she said.

County Council member Kathy Rawls said choosing a party affiliation at the local level is also a different beast. Although she and Hightower are registered Democrats, she said the stances of the party aren't as much of an issue during council meetings.

"I've never felt excluded by them because I was a Democrat," she said.

A mentality of working together is something that has been lost during this cycle, said Teresa Harper, Aiken County Democratic Party vice chairwoman.

"We're supposed to be doing things for the benefit of everyone, not just ourselves, and that's being misrepresented."


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