Local Election

York, Chester sheriff’s races drawing interest as local election filing begins

Alex Underwood
Alex Underwood

Move over, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Those two dominated headlines and vote counts in South Carolina’s February presidential primaries, but now the election of local politicians begins as filing starts at noon Wednesday in York, Chester, and Lancaster counties.

In York County, the sheriff’s race will feature a former Carolina Panthers player facing off against the son-in-law of the retiring sheriff.

Republican Bruce Bryant, 64, decided to retire at the end of 2016 rather than seek a sixth term as the top law enforcement officer in a county with almost a quarter-million people. Bryant stepping down opens a new political era in York County.

Bryant’s son-in-law, veteran police officer and prosecutor’s investigator Kevin Tolson, already announced that he is running and told The Herald on Tuesday he expects to file paperwork at noon Wednesday. Tolson is running as a Republican.

Former deputy and Panthers player Michael Scurlock also is running, but will run as an independent. If Scurlock wins, he would be the first black sheriff in York County.

Because Scurlock must submit a petition to get his name on the ballot, and won’t need to run in June’s party primaries, he won’t have to file with the county until July 15.

Contested races – Republican or Democrat – would mean primaries in June before the November general elections.

All candidates have to submit a filing fee with their application equivalent to a percentage of the post’s salary, ranging from $4,551.40 for a York County sheriff’s candidate to $208 for a Statehouse candidate.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, Clerk of Court David Hamilton and Coroner Sabrina Gast – all Republicans – are expected to run for re-election. None of the three faced opposition in 2012. When Brackett first was elected in 2008, he handily defeated lawyer Phil Jamieson to keep the seat he was appointed to in 2006 after the retirement of Tommy Pope.

Hamilton has been in office since 1996 and has never faced opposition. Gast was first elected in 2008 in a contested race she won easily after taking over when former Coroner Doug McKown resigned amid legal problems.

All seven York County Council races are up for election in 2016, as are all seats in the S.C. House and Senate. Incumbent Republican state Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill, in office almost a quarter-century, will face a challenge from former York County Republican Party chairman Wes Climer.

Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood will not have an easy road to keep his seat. As many as three challengers are expected. Underwood was elected in 2012 as Chester’s first black sheriff and challenged county politicians over money for deputies and improving the department.

Underwood won as a petition candidate after a statewide problem over applications booted scores of candidates from partisan ballots in the primaries. A Democrat who then had to run as a petition candidate, Underwood still handily defeated Richard Smith, the incumbent at the time in 2012 who is expected to run again this year.

Underwood has clashed with former Chester Police Chief Andre Williams, who is now security director for Chester County schools. Williams already announced he is running for sheriff in Chester County, and retired Chester police officer Al Rainey is also expected to run. All are Democrats.

In Lancaster County, Sheriff Barry Faile will run for the first time as a Republican, after switching parties in 2013. He won the seat as a Democrat in 2008 and 2012.

Filing closes at noon on March 30.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065; @AndrewDysHerald

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062; @BristowatHome

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