Pender cleans up in city election

Kathy Pender cruised to a second term on the Rock Hill City Council on Tuesday, besting first-time challenger Rodney Deason in a race that generated little turnout.

With 3.9 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, Pender earned 243 votes to Deason's 34, good for 87 percent of the vote.

The victory gives Pender her sixth term in elected office, with the first four coming as a member of the Rock Hill School Board.

"I do wish that more people had taken advantage of the opportunity to vote," Pender said from her house on Colecreek Lane, where supporters gathered for chili and celebration. "But I'm very pleased with the results. I never have an election where I'm not nervous."

Deason gave an upbeat assessment on Tuesday night.

"Thirty-four is better than 33," he said. "You know, brother, I never really expected to win. I'll be prepared next time, believe me."

In Ward 3, incumbent Kevin Sutton got 133 votes to overcome a write-in challenge from former Rock Hill NAACP President Vince Blackwell. Write-in candidates earned 23 votes in that race.

Sutton, elected to the council in 1994 at age 23, will turn 40 before his next term ends.

Pender overcomes low turnout

What little attention the Pender/Deason contest captured around town was for an unusual reason: Deason manages Emerson's, a strip club on Cherry Road.

"It really bothers me that everybody who wants to talk to me, that's all I'm about," Deason said.

Whatever the feelings about Deason's place of employment, the turnout ranked among the lowest in recent memory.

Voter apathy might be best reflected by the case of 78-year-old Harold Freeman, who sat on his front porch Tuesday afternoon at the corner of McDow and Deas streets.

Freeman said he wasn't sure if he'd make it to the polls by 7 p.m., even though a Deason campaign sign stood in the corner of his yard.

"I hadn't seen him in years till he came by here and said could he put a sign down there on the corner," said Freeman. "I said, 'Yeah, go ahead.'"

Freeman said he hasn't taken much interest in city politics since Maxine Gill passed away in 2004.

"The best councilman we had died," Freeman said. "She'd come down here and set on the porch with us. Any time we had trouble, we'd call Mrs. Gill."

Not a single voter cast a ballot at the Fewell Park precinct, where poll workers sat for 12 hours waiting for someone to show up.

Their waiting went unrewarded, but Deason said he'll give them another chance. He is intent on a second run against Pender, though he didn't rule out a bid for mayor in two years.

"Obviously, something that's great about America is elections," said Pender. "You've got to appreciate people that put themselves in the process and take part."

Pender also has said she can't rule out a future run for mayor if Doug Echols ever decides to hang it up. But for now, she talks of more immediate priorities -- new bridges over the Catawba River and a new incentives program to lure businesses to Cherry Road.

One other available seat did not appear on Tuesday's ballot. Susie Hinton will be declared the winner in Ward 1 because she faced no opposition. She succeeds the late Winston Searles, who died in August at age 85.

"Ready to get to work," Hinton said Tuesday night.