For the last 30 years, five families that run the Tourism Lobby have had an iron grip on all things Horry County politics. Resident voting reached a tipping point in the neighborhoods of Carolina Forest, Longs, North Myrtle Beach, Socastee, and Surfside yesterday narrowly beating back the entire tourism lobby machine. A new era in Horry County politics has now been ushered in.
The resident economy has finally surpassed the might of the tourism lobby. This tipping point in Horry County politics will certainly hold over the lifespan of the baby boomer generation retirees who call the Myrtle Beach area home.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus’ campaign imploded over the past two past weeks. Lazarus watched in dismay as his police force and firemen turned on him. Newly empowered, local voters came out in force county-wide to help challenger Johnny Gardner to an unofficial and narrow win. Despite the robo calls from Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune on Lazarus’ behalf, Gardner held off the machine’s challenge.
As is the case with all things Horry County politics during this past era, ballot machine and precinct irregularities have called Gardner’s win into question. Irregularities, as these, have happened previously when a challenger appeared to upset a local insider.
Lazarus refuses to concede, but even if insiders can find some way to salvage a victory for Lazarus, he returns to council as a highly comprised, questionable, and weak leader.
In North Myrtle Beach, William Bailey won District 104 by an unofficial 18 votes.
The entire tourism lobby and political machine brought in all the big guns to save incumbent representative Greg Duckworth’s seat, but the tide of a local resident base of voters held their ground. While Duckworth has not yet conceded defeat either, clearly a growing sea change in Horry County politics is at hand.
Our elected officials will now be required to work for local residents and not just an entitled few.
BRAD DEAN’S DEPARTURE
The departure of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber C.E.O. Brad Dean left a huge vacuum. The Tourism Lobby was in disarray during this entire election cycle, with newly elected Mayor Brenda Bethune working to fill the gap left by the former Chamber power broker.
S.C. Rep. Alan Clemmons, Mayor Bethune, S.C. Governor McMaster
Mayor Bethune was elected as an outsider politician last November. She quickly became a key insider leader of the Tourism Lobby effort. Bethune campaigned with Alan Clemmons and Tourism Lobby favorite Governor McMaster this past weekend.
Clemmons is locally known as the father of the Tourism Development Fee. (Tourist Tax).
Governor McMaster is embroiled in a state-wide ethics probe where his former political consultant, Richard Quinn Sr. pleaded and turned state’s evidence.
Resident favorite John Warren will now face McMaster in a run off bid scheduled two weeks out. Sources tell MyrtleBeachSC.com that the tourism lobby will call in all their big guns to hold on to this seat. D.C. insiders are being brought to the table in an effort to help McMaster stay in power.
Questions remain as to whether a sitting Myrtle Beach Mayor can also be the kingmaker in Horry County and State Politics.
Yesterday’s vote, while narrow, was the beginning of the end for the Tourism Lobby continuing to dominate all things local and S.C. politics.