Politics & Government

Sunday alcohol vote not as hot as other races

The vote on whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants and bars serving food would normally be the hot election topic in Rock Hill.

That's not the case this year. There's the race between Ralph Norman and John Spratt for a pivotal U.S. House seat and a marriage amendment that has the attention of the religious community. The contest for governor of South Carolina is also on Tuesday's ballot.

"I don't know if it's being overshadowed," Karen Kedrowski, a Winthrop University professor and chairwoman of the Political Science Department, said of the alcohol issue. "There just has not been a lot of organized proponents or opposition around it."

There are signs around town to vote "yes" for Sunday alcohol sales, being pushed by the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and its Citizens and Business for Rock Hill group. There are a lot fewer signs to vote "no," the effort of a member of First Baptist Church.

The opinions on the impact of the other issues varies. Kedrow- ski doesn't think Sunday alcohol sales will get approved, based on the number of religiously motivated voters. But Blease Graham, a political scientist at the University of South Carolina, said the issue will pass because voters think it is an economic necessity.

Chamber members argue that people should have a choice, restaurants are losing their Sunday business to Charlotte and Sunday alcohol sales would lure new chains to town and generate more tax money and jobs.

Meanwhile, religious leaders say Sunday is a holy day and Sunday alcohol sales would bring more bars to town and erode the city's quality of life.

The Norman-Spratt effect

The race for U.S. House will surely bring out voters, experts agreed.

Though Kedrowski said Spratt's challenger Norman won't win, his conservative voting base will likely cast ballots against Sunday alcohol sales.

The alcohol issue may become a fight between the two branches of the Republican Party -- the traditionalists who want order and the socially liberal who believe in personal rights. The traditionalists will probably win the fight, she said.

Graham said given the changing demographics of Rock Hill, the U.S. House vote and Sunday alcohol sales can't be linked.

"You can't leap from a vote for Spratt or Norman to Sunday liquor," he said. "As things get to be more cosmopolitan, there's going to be a need for more business activity, more than just regular hours. If there's City Council support and business support, it usually passes."

Kedrowski believes the marriage amendment, which if passed would define marriage as between one man and one woman, will motivate the evangelical religious conservatives to vote. And "they will vote against alcohol," she said.

The number of liberal, socially conscience voters of Rock Hill won't be as high as those religiously motivated.

"Opposition will show up at the polls," Kedrowski said. "They believe this is a sin."

Graham said the marriage amendment is a rallying point for conservatives at the polls, but he's skeptical that will translate to votes against Sunday alcohol sales.

"It takes an organized effort to defeat something like that," he said. "It's usually a mega church, but even then many of those folks live outside the city."

Even the social conservatives who want a peaceful Sunday usually recognize the thin profit margin for restaurants and the economic impact of Sunday sales, Graham said.

Power of pulpit strong

The Rev. Mike Wallace of the York Baptist Association said he has been working with church leaders of all denominations to get the message out on voting "no" on Tuesday.

The power of the pulpit is still strong in Rock Hill.

"Sunday alcohol sales has been overshadowed to a degree, but we've organized and made some noise," the missions development director said. "The vote 'no' crowd has been kind of quiet in public campaigning, but that doesn't mean they are being quiet in their homes and in their pulpits."

Wallace said the issue of selling alcohol on Sundays is nonpartisan. He also found a vote in favor of the marriage amendment is not necessarily a vote against Sunday alcohol sales.

"We have people with us on the marriage amendment that will vote for Sunday alcohol sales," he said.

Businesses rallying for choice

Pam Morrell, a real estate agent and co-chairwoman of Citizens and Business for Rock Hill, said the better the voter turnout, the more likely Sunday alcohol sales will get approved.

Being out of the limelight isn't negative.

"To be overshadowed is not a bad thing because of the fact that what alcohol sales on Sundays represents is so positive that those that followed it have bought into it and its rewards," Morrell said.

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