Red? Blue? Purple? York, Lancaster County Council candidates say party not an issue

Montrio Belton, left, and Joel Hamilton
Montrio Belton, left, and Joel Hamilton

Two Rock Hill attorneys are making their cases to represent one of the more unusual districts in York County.

Montrio Belton and Joel Hamilton both say they came to York County for school, and liked the place so much they set roots in the area.

Both say York County has been good to them, and they want to return the favor.

One will get the chance to represent District 7 on York County Council, which covers fast-growing areas of Fort Mill and Rock Hill, after the Nov. 6 election.

York County Councilman Chad Williams has held the District 7 seat since 2009, but he decided not to run again.

Belton, 45, came to York County as a Winthrop University student, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He earned a doctoral degree in education from UNC Charlotte, and a law degree from the University of South Carolina. He has been active duty and reserve Army, taught and held administration roles in area public schools, and coached school and recreation league teams.

“Since 1992, I’ve been pretty active in the community,” Belton said. “I’m just a local guy who wants to make a difference.”

Hamilton, 35, earned political science and business degrees from Winthrop. He earned a law degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Hamilton, too, has a long list of service activities, from leading the county Republican Party to aiding inner-city students in attending college.

“I instantly fell in love with the community,” Hamilton said. “This community has been remarkable to me. This community has welcomed me.”

Belton, married in Fort Mill now with two children, said there’s one issue that prompted him to run.

“How we have handled the growth in Fort Mill has been a major issue for me,” Belton said, “and that’s the one issue that propelled me to run.

“We’ve got to find solutions,” Belton said. “It’s going to take visionary leadership, and people who think beyond just the traditional things.”

Belton, who lives in the Dobys Bridge Road area, said he knows about traffic issues. He said it will take regional efforts, including mass transit and growth management, to resolve transportation problems.

“We’re at the point in our county where the conversation can’t just be about roads,” Belton said. “I don’t think we can pave our way out of the road problem we’re in.”

Hamilton sees a range of issues and public service needs related to local growth.

“As we grow, we need to make sure we’re responsibly scaling those services,” he said.

Hamilton said he’d like to see a “more diverse tax base” with new job creation, and educational standards sending out graduates “ready and able to fill those jobs.” He is married to a prosecutor in York County, and law enforcement is another top concern.

“I’m very attuned to the challenges of keeping our community safe,” Hamilton said.

Crossing party lines

County Council races are the most local contests where candidates file by party.

Belton, a Democrat in a county that historically votes Republican, hopes voters choose candidates based on the “expression of our ideas.”

“This is a local race, about local issues,” Belton said.

Both candidates agree that party affiliation shouldn’t be a top concern. Issues like roads and schools and public infrastructure, Hamilton said, “those aren’t really partisan issues. Everyone feels those.”

“It is a partisan election,” said Hamilton, a Republican. “For a council race, we’ve been very focused on the issues facing York County.”

What concerns the candidates is the wide area, both geographically and demographically, that they want to serve.

District 7 tops out in the U.S. 21 Bypass, Old Nation Road and Springfield Parkway area of Fort Mill. It covers much of the Anne Springs Close Greenway. It covers both Paradise and Kingsley, the Main Street area and the growing residential sites along Fort Mill Parkway.

District 7 also crosses the Catawba River, covering the Cherry Road corridor and Riverwalk areas of Rock Hill, down I-77 from the river to the Rock Hill Galleria mall, and areas from Dave Lyle Boulevard to Winthrop University. The district crosses Heckle Boulevard to the Huntington subdivision in Rock Hill.

Other York County Council seats cover Rock Hill (District 4 and 6), Tega Cay and some of Fort Mill (District 1), Lake Wylie and Clover (District 2) and western York County (District 3).

Only Districts 5 and 7 cross into both of York County’s largest municipalities, Rock Hill and Fort Mill. Only District 7 covers a downtown, and is within a street block of the other.

“This district has the very high-growth, high-energy areas of Fort Mill,” Hamilton said. “It also has a big chunk of Rock Hill. It’s got a lot going on. It’s dynamic.”

Because of where the district lines sit, Belton said it’s not likely to have a political party advantage.

“It’s a toss-up district,” he said. “It is truly, probably the only purple council district in York County.”

York County Council candidates running unopposed are Republican Robert Winkler for District 3, after defeating former council member Joe Cox in the primary; and Democrat William “Bump” Roddey, who also appears on the Working Families ticket, for District 4.

Lancaster County

The only other contested County Council race in York, Lancaster and Chester counties is District 4 in Lancaster County. Incumbent Larry Honeycutt faces challenger Don Duve.

Duve, 80, moved to Lancaster County from west of Chicago in Illinois in 2015. He was involved in politics there.

He said his top issues are focused on growth management, education, meeting employer needs, public infrastructure and crime prevention.

“My base platform is based on being a conservative,” Duve said. “All my decisions are based on common sense, and being able to cut through the fluff to get to the crux of the problems.”

Honeycutt, 80, is a three-term council member, about to complete his 12th year. Honeycutt is retired and worked decades for a paper and packaging manufacturer. He points to an array of accomplishments, from restoring the county courthouse to upgrading fire service, working on a new animal shelter and giving the sheriff “what he needs to have a top-notch department.”

Duve also is retired, after three decades of consulting with top companies in manufacturing, looking at company structures and recommending changes to improve efficiency and profit.

“I’m a fixer,” he said. “You give me a problem, I can fix it.”

Duve said he and Honeycutt are friends.

“Larry and I are good friends, but my field of vision is a little wider than his, because I’ve handled the problems of growth and been successful at it,” Duve said. He says he’s ready to “provide new ideas and energy.”

A proposed massive new Lennar Homes subdivision will cover more than 1,300 acres and bring about 2,000 homes, offering growth near the city of Lancaster.

“I believe we all feel like that will be a shot in the arm for our community,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt doesn’t see his race as a party decision. Duve is running as a Republican, Honeycutt as a Democrat.

“The people I represent know me,” Honeycutt said. “They don’t vote for Democrat or Republican. They vote for me for what I’ve tried to do for our county.”

Other Lancaster County seats unopposed in the election are Charlene McGriff, a Democrat in District 2, and Allen Blackmon, a Republican in District 6.

Chester County

In Chester County, all seven candidates who filed for seats are Democrats and running unopposed. Shane Stuart as supervisor and incumbent Brad Jordan in District 1 are uncontested. Mike Vaughn defeated incumbent Archie Lucas and Chris Melvin in the primary vote for District 2. Incumbent Mary Guy defeated Tammy Williams to keep the District 5 seat.

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes

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