Gast defeats Skidmore in York County coroner's race

YORK -- Republican Sabrina Gast beat out Democratic challenger Pete Skidmore on Tuesday in the race to become York County's coroner.

"I'm honored that the citizens of York County have entrusted me with this office," said Gast, 38. "I will be proud to serve as your coroner."

Election results are unofficial and will be confirmed later this week.

Skidmore, a 15-year Fort Mill private investigator, could not be reached late Tuesday.

As coroner, Gast will probe York County deaths, especially those involving traffic fatalities, children and vulnerable adults. She hopes to repair the reputation of the coroner's office, she said.

"Community confidence in this office hit rock bottom with the previous coroner," Gast said of former Coroner Doug McKown, who was suspended from office in 2006 after an arrest on drug charges. McKown was later aquitted and briefly resumed his coroner role, but resigned in July after an arrest in Lincoln County, N.C., on charges of drinking while driving and having an open container in the vehicle.

"I will work to rebuild the trust of the community," Gast said.

In September 2006, Gast was appointed interim coroner by Gov. Mark Sanford. Before her appointment, she was coordinator for Rock Hill's SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a city of Rock Hill post she held for nearly seven years. Gast stepped down, but she continued stints as an on-call SANE nurse.

Gast's goals for the coroner's office include ensuring deputy coroners attend continuing education classes, and educating the community on preventing traffic deaths. Ten York County youths 19 and younger have died this year in collisions on state roads, according to S.C. Highway Patrol.

"As a mother, that's one of my greatest fears," she said. "Having to go to someone's house and tell them that their child has died as a result of a car accident happens way too often. I'm hoping to decrease those visits."

The coroner serves a four-year term and earns $64,541 annually.