Originally created 04/22/01

Election will be all GOP



NORTH AUGUSTA - On Tuesday, North Augustans will turn out to elect three city council members and their mayor: all incumbents, all Republicans.

Arthur Shealy, Pat Carpenter and Phil Mottel are running unopposed in the general election, as is Mayor Lark Jones.

North Augusta is a tale of two cities - one Democratic and one Republican - with each party controlling the city at different times.

In 1963, Republicans F. Irvin Schueler and Lloyd Stahl were elected to seats on North Augusta City Council. They were the first GOP members elected to office since the city's inception in 1906. The results were so unexpected that an article in The Augusta Chronicle described Republicans as "dazed."

"North Augusta has finally got what she has long needed - a two-party system," said GOP Chairman J. Bradford Hays.

The Republican party's victories in 1963 marked the end of its six-year victory drought.

In 1967, North Augusta elected its first Republican mayor, Cecil L. Collins. Since then, no Democrat has led the city, and only a couple have held council positions. For the past 10 years, no Democrat has run for public office.

"In the '50's, it was all Democratic," Mr. Collins said. "It just gradually broke ... Now, it is all Republicans."

Chris Grant, assistant professor of political science at Presbyterian College in Clinton, has studied Southern politics for 10 years and South Carolina politics for the past five.

He said North Augusta and Aiken County began to break away from being solely Democratic when Strom Thurmond ran for president with the States Rights, or Dixiecrat, party in 1948. The Democrat's departure hastened when he backed Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1966, when Mr. Thurmond left the Democratic Party to join the GOP, many politicians from the area followed.

The party switch was partially because of racial differences in the South. The Democratic Party's support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which gave blacks the right to vote, sent an overwhelming number of people to the Republican Party, Dr. Grant said. Today, those tensions almost have been completely abolished in politics, he said.

What Mr. Thurmond started, the construction of Savannah River Site finished. With SRS came the influx of white males - many from the North - who were well-heeled and affluent, a demographic that Dr. Grant says leans toward the Republican Party.

Today, Dr. Grant said, "Aiken County is the strongest and most reliable Republican (voting) county in the state."

After his landmark 1963 victory, Mr. Schueler was quoted as saying he hoped his win would cause "South Carolina and the entire South to take the challenge to place this country back into the hands of the people," referring to loosening the grip Democrats had on much of the region.

According to scholars, Democratic domination of the South started after the Civil War. From 1876 until the 1960s, with a few Republican breakthroughs in the 1950s, the region was referred to as the "Solid South."

"The Democratic Party was a reaction against the Republican North," said Augusta State University's political science professor Gwen Wood. "The Republican Party was very much regarded as the party that won the Civil War."

Dr. Wood said the Democratic Party gained popularity when unwelcomed Northern "carpetbaggers" Came south. The party reached its height in popularity during the 1930s when Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program was credited with bailing America out of its economic depression. The party cooled off when it became divided over varying ideologies.

According to Dr. Grant, it is not too late for Democrats in North Augusta and it is possible the party has not left at all but is practicing under a different title. Many times, Dr. Grant said, candidates will jump ship when an area is dominated by one party.

"Absolutely, people that would normally run as Democrats, for strategic reasons, run as Republicans," he said. "Which means you wind up with a very, very weak Democratic Party. Ironically, that was the way the Republican Party was 30 years ago in the South."

Just because it appears dead doesn't mean the Democratic party cannot reincarnate.

"A very charismatic candidate would have to emerge and capture the imagination of the population," Dr. Grant said. "That could be the rebudding of a Democratic Party."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (706) 823-3218.

If you go

The following precincts are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.:

Nancy Carson Library, 135 Edgefield Road, 9, 44, 63;

North Augusta Community Center, 101 Brookside Dr., 25, 10;

St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, 471 W. Martintown Road, 26;

North Augusta High School, 2000 Knobcone Ave., 27;

Hammond Hill Elementary School, 901 W. Woodlawn Ave., 28;

First Baptist Church of North Augusta, 602 Georgia Ave., 29;

North Augusta Middle School, 725 Old Edgefield Rd., 54;

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1002 Carolina Ave., 55;

North Augusta Public Safety Station 2, Five Notch Road and I-20, 58, 45, 62;

North Augusta Public Safety Station 2, Five Notch Road and I-20, Edgefield 007;

Aiken County Registration & Elections Commission, 916 Vaucluse Road, Aiken, 64 Barrier Free.

The following precincts are open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Aiken County Registration & Elections Commission, 916 Vaucluse Road, Aiken - (803)642-2028, 65 Absentee;

Edgefield County Voter Registration - (803)637-4072

129 Courthouse Square, Edgefield, Absentee Edgefield County.