Originally created 08/13/97

Incumbent wins vote in District 81



AIKEN - Incumbent Rudy Mason will again be the Republican Party's standardbearer in the special state House District 81 election in November.

Mr. Mason's Tuesday victory was by a comfortable margin of 958 to 483 over challenger Rebekah Sutherland, capturing a hefty 66.5 percent of the vote.

"The voters have spoken again and have sent me to finish the two-year term I was entitled to," Mr. Mason said. "I want to thank the voters and I look forward to the general election in November and another race."

Mrs. Sutherland prevailed only in Aiken precincts 1 and 2, Graniteville 16 and Town Creek 59, all with small turnouts. With a total of 19,125 registered voters, the turnout represented only 7.59 percent of the electorate.

Mrs. Sutherland said she plans to run for public office again but declined to say if she would again seek election to the state House of Representatives.

"We've got to back up and decide," Mrs. Sutherland said. "It was a very challenging race and we need to put aside our differences and move on to November."

She declined to say she would support Mr. Mason in the special election in November. Mr. Mason faces Democrat Brian Lisk and Libertarian Sarah Flemming in the November special election.

The election, the third in four years for 22 South Carolina House Districts, was called after federal courts declared the 1994 redistricting unconstitutional.

At that time, the Department of Justice ordered redistricting to allow for more majority-black districts. The result was that much of the north side of Aiken was split off and paired with part of Edgefield to form District 82.

After the 1996 election, federal courts ruled that race could not be the principal factor in drawing district lines and it was back to the drawing board for all Aiken County legislative districts.

Although all members of the Aiken County Legislative delegation must face the voters in November, only Mr. Mason had primary opposition.

Mrs. Sutherland said she decided to challenge Mr. Mason because he was unresponsive to her requests of him as a constituent and she promised to be accessible to the people by phone, fax, e-mail and in person.

Mr. Mason, on the other hand, maintained that he was always accessible to the 28,000 constituents of House District 81 but that he could not work full time for Mrs. Sutherland.