Originally created 05/23/00

District lawmaker to be decided today



NORTH AUGUSTA - North Augusta voters go to the polls today to fill the unexpired term of former South Carolina House District 83 Rep. Scott Beck, who resigned to take a job in the state Attorney General's office.

For the first time in a decade, voters of the district, which includes North Augusta and Belvedere, have a choice between the Republican and Democrat parties with North Augusta City Councilman Don Smith carrying the GOP banner in the heavily Republican district and the Rev. Nathaniel Irvin, the Democratic standard bearer.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. today.

The Rev. Irvin is seeking to end the Republican domination of District 83 politics, which has not elected a Democrat since former Rep. Tom Huff, now an appellate court judge, switched from the Democratic to the Republican party in the late 1980s. In addition, no black has represented the area since the Reconstruction era, when Prince Rivers, then a resident of old Hamburg, was sent to the state House.

Both candidates agree that the campaign has been free of racial overtones.

"It's been a really quiet campaign," Mr. Smith said. "I haven't seen any sign of race-oriented issues in the campaign. I don't look at it that way."

Neither does the Rev. Irvin, who says labels are not important. He's counting on crossover votes by people who would ordinarily vote Republican, and he feels he is well known by black and white voters.

"I'm expecting people of good will who have known me for 40 years as an educator and a minister to vote for me," the Rev. Irvin said.

Though both candidates seem confident of victory, both say they will continue to work until the polls close because turnout is apt to be crucial in any special election. But the turnout for the special election is likely to be less than the turnout for the April 4 special primary, which drew only 2,500 people out of a total of 17,704 registered voters.

The primary forced Mr. Smith into a runoff with North Augusta attorney Arthur Shealy when he failed to win an outright majority in a field of three, which also included Aiken County Councilman Eddie Butler. Mr. Smith decisively defeated Mr. Shealy with nearly 65 percent of the vote.

Stuart Bedenbaugh, executive director of the Aiken County Voter Registration and Elections Office, predicts a turnout of 2,000 voters, or only 12 percent of registered voters in the district.

Regardless of the winner today, both candidates must run again in the June 13 primary. The campaign will be no problem for Mr. Smith because both Mr. Shealy and Mr. Butler have taken themselves out of the running. The Rev. Irvin however must again run against Evelyn T. Robinson, his opponent in the special April 4 primary, which he won easily with more than 91 percent of the vote.

The likelihood is that the Rev. Irvin will again be Mr. Smith's opponent in the November general election for a full two-year term in the legislature.

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.

Polling places

Belvedere 9, Nancy Carson Library, 135 Edgefield RoadCarolina Heights 10, American Legion Post 232, Radio Station RoadNorth Augusta 25, North Augusta Community Center, 101 Brookside DriveNorth Augusta 26, St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church, 471 W. Martintown RoadNorth Augusta 27, North Augusta High School, 2000 Knobcone Ave.North Augusta 28, Hammond Hill Elementary School, 900 W. Woodlawn Ave.North Augusta 29, First Baptist Church, North Augusta, 602 Georgia Ave.Belvedere 44, Belvedere United Methodist Church, 202 Rhomboid PlaceMisty Lakes 44, Aiken County EMS Station, 557 Edgefield RoadNorth Augusta 54, North Augusta Middle School, 725 Old Edgefield RoadNorth Augusta 55, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1002 Carolina Ave.Fox Creek 58, North Augusta Public Safety Substation, Five Notch RoadBelvedere 62, First Baptist Church, Belvedere, 421 Hampton Ave.Ascauga Lake 63, Belvedere Fire Department, 204 Hampton Ave."Fail Safe" 66, Registration and Elections Office, Richland Avenue, Aiken