Originally created 08/18/99

Perry wins lopsided primary



AIKEN -- Robert S. "Skipper" Perry took Tuesday's Republican primary in a rout, winning 20 of 21 precincts in South Carolina House District 81 and out-distancing his nearest competitor, Kathryn Kling, by 40 percentage points.

Voter turnout for the primary was heavy, and Mr. Perry quickly began to build a lead that his opponents could never overcome. The Aiken city councilman amassed 2,504 of the 3,917 votes cast, for 64.40 percent. Ms. Kling garnered 946 for 24.33 percent. Rebekah Sutherland came in third with 438 votes, for 11.27 percent.

"I'm overwhelmed. It's so wonderful to win on the first time out," Mr. Perry said. He attributed his victory to his family and friends and to "a positive campaign."

He is set to carry the Republican banner this fall in a special election to fill the vacancy in District 81 of the South Carolina House of Representatives created by the death of Rudy Mason, an Aiken Republican.

Mr. Perry will face independent petition candidate Scott Singer in the Oct. 5 special election. And he vows to get to work on that campaign immediately.

"I'm going to water aerobics tomorrow morning and then start campaigning in the afternoon," he said.

It was a hard-fought campaign. It was also a high-profile campaign with all three candidates walking door to door in the neighborhoods of Aiken in record-breaking heat.

But it paid off with a little more than 19 percent of registered voters turning out for the election. Special elections in Aiken County typically result in low turnout and early on, this one was predicted to bring out less than 10 percent.

The only hitch in the proceedings occurred at Town Creek, Precinct 59, when the polling station failed to open on time, resulting in a two-hour delay.

During that time, about 14 people arrived to vote and were unable to do so. Their names were taken by poll workers, and some of them returned later to cast ballots, said Stuart Bedenbaugh, director of elections.

Mr. Perry was considered the candidate to beat. He quickly gathered the support of a majority of local and state office holders as well as the core of the Aiken County Republican establishment.

Pat Willis can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.