AIKEN - Incumbent LaWana McKenzie was leading Jean Newsome early today in a race for the District 3 seat on the Aiken County Council. The race headed up Tuesday's action as five Aiken County Council seats were up for grabs.
With 8 of 10 precincts reporting, Ms. McKenzie, a Democrat, was leading with 59.5 percent or 2,043 votes, while Ms. Newsome, a Republican and the current county auditor, had 40.1 percent or 1,379 votes. There were 14 write-in votes.
Aiken County's "fail safe" precinct will not be counted until 8:30 a.m. Thursday when challenged ballots are tallied. The "fail safe" precinct applies to people who have moved in the county, but haven't changed their addresses.
"I'm not comfortable until all the votes are counted," Ms. McKenzie said. "I'm real pleased with the early returns, but there are still a number of precincts to go."
District 3, which represents Burnettown, Beech Island and most of the Horse Creek Valley, has traditionally been a highly volatile area where many voters feel they are under-represented in county affairs. Ms. McKenzie was barely reelected in 1992 when she took on Libertarian Ron Green.
This year, both candidates tried not to say anything about each other - good or bad - in what many thought would be a more feisty matchup.
Ms. Newsome, who's been county auditor for 12 years, ran on a platform of improving the efficiency of county government, while Ms. McKenzie, principal of Jefferson Elementary, stressed continued constituent service.
In Council District 7, Aiken dry cleaner Rick Osbon, a Republican, was leading Democrat Kathleen Newberg, an electrical engineer at Savannah River Site early today.
With 4 of 12 precincts reporting, Mr. Osbon was leading with 75.6 percent or 1,701 votes, while Ms. Newberg had 24.2 percent or 544 votes. There were five write-in votes. Both candidates were vying to replace councilman Russ Ferrara, who was defeated by Mr. Osbon in the June 11 GOP primary.
"I feel good," Mr. Osbon said. "My campaign has worked really hard to maintain momentum."
District 7 represents south Aiken and Montmorenci and has tended to vote more Republican in recent years. Many of the district's residents have expressed concerns about drainage problems and taxation in one of the fastest-growing areas in the county.
Mr. Osbon, a GOP activist who served as county chairman for U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham in 1994, ran on a platform of making Aiken County more attractive for business and industry, while Ms. Newberg stressed the need to have a "moderate balance" on the nine-member council, which is majority Republican.
In Council District 8, longtime Democratic Councilman Willar Hightower was leading Republican Phillip Magee, a heavy equipment mechanic for the county's Department of Public Works.
With 9 of 12 precincts reporting early today, Mr. Hightower was leading with 65.3 percent or 1,974 votes, while Mr. Magee had 34.6 percent or 1,045 votes. There were six write-in votes.
District 8 runs from downtown Aiken north toward Interstate 20 and has tended to vote more for Democrats in recent years. Citizens in the district have expressed concerns about the number of unpaved and poorly maintained roads in the county.
Mr. Hightower ran on a platform of accessibility and experience, while Mr. Magee stressed a need for change on council.
Council Chairman Ronnie Young and Councilman Eddie Butler were both unopposed.