Originally created 11/06/01

Large turnout expected in Aiken



AIKEN - In his 15-plus years as a member of Aiken's municipal election commission, Richard Johnson Jr. can't remember a city council race as competitive as today's showdown.

"It's going to rank number one," said Mr. Johnson, who is chairman of the election commission.

Of the four city council seats up for grabs today, only one is uncontested.

Democrats Wilkins Byrd and Debbie Williams are challenging Republicans Jane Vaughters and incumbent Pat Cunning for the council's two at-large seats.

District 2 incumbent LessiePrice, a 14-year councilwoman, faces challenges from Republicans Davis Cheek and Ron Harrison, who is running as a write-in candidate.

Only Republican Richard Smith, who is running for the District 4 seat, faces no opposition.

Aiken has not seen a contested city council race since Mayor Fred Cavanaugh defeated Mrs. Price in a special election to replace the late H. Odell Weeks in 1991.

Mr. Johnson attributes the large candidate pool to Aiken's growth and the community's interest in planning it. The city's increased commercial and residential development appears to have stirred voter curiosity.

"We've seen tremendous interest," said Stuart Bedenbaugh, director of Aiken County's voter registration and election office. Mr. Bedenbaugh said the 275 absentee votes already cast represent a large number for a municipal election.

Of the 275 votes cast for at-large races, 135 voted in the District 4 race and 50 voted in the District 2 race. All residents of Aiken can vote for at-large candidates.

"(The large turnout) is attributed to the fact that we have competitive races in three of the four offices sought," Mr. Bedenbaugh added.

Mr. Johnson said he was happy with the increased interest in city government. He said he hasn't seen such civic interest since the early 1980s.

"It's good, provided (the candidate's) overall objective is for the betterment of the city," he said. "It's healthy for Aiken."

Polling locations:

Aiken 1, Graniteville 16, Six Points 35 and Six Points 46 vote at the city auditorium at 214 Park Ave.

Aiken 2, American Legion Post 212, 602 Hampton Ave.

Aiken 3, Aiken High School Annex (old North Aiken Elementary School), 123 Rutland Drive.

Aiken 4, Smith Hazel Recreation Center, 400 Kershaw St.

Aiken 5, Smith Hall, St. Mary's Help of Christians Church, 118 York St.

Aiken 6, Fermata Club, 841 Whiskey Road.

Millbrook 20, Aiken 47, Levels 52, Hollow Creek 53, Gem Lakes 60, Odell Weeks Recreation Center, 1700 Whiskey Road.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895.


City Council Seat at Large
Vote for no more than two (2)
Wilkins Byrd Democrat 22
Debbie Williams Democrat 23
Patrick D. Cunning Republican 24
Jane Vaughters Republican 25
Write-In    

City Council Seat District 2
Vote for no more than one (1)
Lessie Price Democrat 31
Davis Cheek Republican 32
Write-In    

City Council Seat District 4
Vote for no more than one (1)
Richard W. Smith Republican 29
Write-In