AIKEN - Don Smith won the right to represent South Carolina House District 83 - at least until the November general election.
Mr. Smith, a Republican, soundly defeated his Democratic challenger, the Rev. Nathaniel Ir-vin, in the heavily GOP district that encompasses North Augusta and Belvedere. Mr. Smith amassed 74 percent of the ballots cast, for 1,679 votes, to his opponent's 26 percent, or 600 votes.
Tuesday's special election was held to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Scott Beck, who resigned in January to take a job with the state attorney general's office.
"I want to compliment (the) Rev. Irvin for the way he conducted his campaign and, though I know he would like to have won the votes, he can be proud of the campaign he ran," Mr. Smith said.
The two candidates shook hands and exchanged compliments on the conduct of the campaign, which both agreed was issue-oriented and free of personal attacks.
A member of the North Augusta City Council, Mr. Smith said he would resign from office today but would not take the oath of office for the South Carolina legislature "probably until Monday." Results of Tuesday's election will not become official until Thursday when they are verified by Stuart Bedenbaugh, executive director of Voter Registration and Elections, and the Election Commission.
"Then I'll probably go to Columbia on Monday, be sworn in, and take my seat next to Skipper Perry," Mr. Smith said.
Mr. Smith replaces Mr. Perry, R-District 81, as the junior member of the Aiken County Legislative Delegation, a group of lawmakers he says he will depend on for advice. He plans to mull over the bills he likely will face during the approximately two weeks left in this legislative term between now and Monday.
"Between now and then I'll be studying the issues and finding out what bills are coming up. I'll be seeking the advice of (delegation Chairman) Roland Smith and, of course, Skipper," he said.
For his part, the Rev. Irvin has just begun to fight. He'll go on to the June 13 Democratic primary to face fellow Democrat Evelyn T. Robinson, whom he defeated decisively in the special April primary, winning more than 91 percent of the votes. It is likely then that the November matchup again will be between the Rev. Irvin and Mr. Smith.
"I'm trying to revitalize the two-party system. It's not good when there's only one party. It makes people go to sleep. I'm trying to wake them up and bring them to the polls, but I didn't do it this time," the Rev. Irvin said.
Nevertheless, he said plans to continue his campaign in a district that hasn't elected a Democrat in more than a decade. But first he must win another primary in June. Mr. Smith can sit that one out.
His two primary opponents, Aiken County Councilman Eddie Butler and North Augusta attorney Arthur Shealy requested that their names be taken off the ballot.
Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895 or email@example.com.