Stuart unseats Roddey in Chester County supervisor election

Carlisle Roddey’s near 30-year run as Chester County supervisor came to an end Tuesday, as Shane Stuart emerged victorious in a special election rerun. But Roddey refused to concede, potentially prolonging the election fight.

The unofficial results show Stuart pulled in 2,644 votes countywide, or 53.5 percent of the total, to Roddey’s 2,292.

Tuesday’s victory completes an unlikely political comeback for Stuart, a former law enforcement officer and Air Force reservist. He had to collect petition signatures in order to get on the ballot last November, when he was the only opponent challenging Roddey’s attempt to win a ninth term in the county’s top administrative post. Despite the incumbent’s perceived advantage, Stuart came within 230 votes of defeating Roddey in November.

Voting irregularities that day led to the challenger’s second chance. Because some precincts were missing ballot styles, confusion led to some voters being turned away from their precincts or voting out in the open on paper ballots. That gave Stuart the basis to appeal the election result, and in December, the S.C. Election Commission voted to throw out Roddey’s win and ordered Chester County to hold the election again.

On Tuesday, Stuart was able to bring out enough voters tired of Roddey’s long run in office to win an improbable victory.

“In two days, it will be one year that we’ve been doing this campaign,” Stuart said. “I’m ecstatic that we’ve got the results in. I’ll be even more ecstatic when we certify those results.”

At the Cyclone Restaurant on Columbia Street, a planned victory party for Roddey turned sour as the election results came in. Roddey, however, wasn’t ready to turn out the lights on three decades in office.

“I’m not conceding,” Roddey said. “I’ll have to wait a few days to look at the results. I’ll wait and see if there are any extenuating circumstances.”

Roddey said he may wait until early next week to decide if he will file an appeal of Tuesday’s result. He has until noon on Wednesday, March 11, to file his own appeal to the S.C. Election Commission.

A date has yet to be set for Stuart to take office, but he was already thinking ahead to his first days in office.

“It’s almost budget time here in Chester County, so we’ve got to focus on that,” Stuart said.

County elections director Terry Graham said his office didn’t run into any significant problems this time, but said he was disappointed turnout only totaled 10 percent.

“I was hoping to get 15-20 percent,” Graham said.

It was only a few weeks earlier that Roddey presided over the groundbreaking at a new Giti Tire plant in Richburg, a major new industry brought to Chester County under his tenure. Roddey had based his campaign on his record on economic growth, attracting development and bringing down the county’s unemployment rate in the aftermath of the recession and the closure of the county’s textile industry. But that record wasn’t enough to save him in an unusual election season.

Many Roddey voters at the polls said the county’s economic growth in recent years showed a change in leadership wasn’t necessary. But more didn’t think the situation in Chester County was changing fast enough.

“I’ve lived in Chester for eight years, and it’s one of the most backward places I’ve ever lived,” said Emma Boyd, a Stuart voter in Rodman. “We need to make a change. We need more businesses, more progress, more regular growth, and we need people to open their minds to new things.”

Stuart could take office next week, after the results are certified by the county board of canvassers on Friday. He will serve as supervisor until 2018, chairing meetings of the Chester County Council and managing all departments of county government.