Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill 11 #7: Local women active in politics

In national and local news in 2008, women were at the forefront of many campaigns. The township also had more women running for local and state offices.

In state races, Lancaster attorney Mandy Powers Norrell ran in one of the most contentious races the area has seen in recent years. During her campaign, Norrell frequently mentioned the importance of women in politics, noting that if elected, she may be the only woman in the S.C. Senate.

Norrell lost her race for the Senate 16 seat to political veteran Mick Mulvaney. Norrell said she was happy to see so many women on the ballot this year.

"I'm very, very glad to see it because we are the last in the nation electing women to office, so it's good to see women coming out for office and seeing that they can be taken just as seriously on the ballot as men," Norrell said. "But I wonder how much it affects how people vote, because I think for the most part people aren't looking at gender on the ballot. I hope that is true, and I think that it is."

Republican Deborah Long made a successful bid for Mulvaney's vacated House District 45 seat, despite accusations that she was accepting contributions from New York millionaire Howard Rich, a school voucher proponent.

In a surprise move in the final weeks of the race, Long returned the $12,000 donated by Rich and various groups associated with him.

Long, an Indian Land resident and owner of Fort Mill Vision, defeated Lancaster County Councilman Fred Thomas for the seat.

No women currently serve in the S.C. Senate. Sixteen women serve in the S.C. House now, including Long.

In local races, after more than a year as interim coroner, Fort Mill resident Sabrina Gast made a successful bid for the office against private investigator Pete Skidmore, who also lives in Fort Mill.

Ashley Martin, like Gast, a Fort Mill High School graduate, lost a chance at a seat in the York County Council during the June primary, and Democrat Marian Davenport lost to incumbent Paul Lindemann in the race for York County Council. Davenport and Lindemann both live in Fort Mill.

There are no women serving on the York County Council. However, the Lancaster County Council welcomes newcomer Kathy Sistare, the council's only woman. Sistare takes Wayne Kersey's seat on the council.

Chantay Bouler, a long-time Fort Mill resident and a member of the Fort Mill School Board from 1993 to 2005, also successfully recaptured a seat on the school board.

"I'm loving it," Bouler said. "I'm so happy to be back in that capacity because education is one of my passions and I think it's so critical. I'm just getting my feet wet again. Some things don't change, but there are some things that did."