Vote on August 8
If you have turned on the news or read a newspaper recently, you know it’s election season in America. With the Presidential contest a little more than a year away, the “horse race” coverage has already started, and it’s only going to consume more oxygen as the months go by. Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? What do the polls say?
The Presidential race is the biggest election news, but there are local contests that may have a more significant impact on people’s lives. One of those is going on right here and right now: the race for Mayor of Aiken. The current mayor, Rick Osbon, has held the position since 2015 and is running for a third term this summer. When he ran for reelection last time, in 2019, he was unopposed. This year, two challengers have stepped forward. One of them is Teddy Milner, a longtime successful businesswoman who owns the downtown restaurant It’s All Good. The other is Kathryn Wade, an Aiken native and a member of the Housing Authority board. Both women say that they want to increase transparency and accountability in city government, and both are committed to preserving those things that “make Aiken, Aiken.”
All three candidates have registered as Republicans and will meet in a primary election on Tuesday, August 8. If any candidate gets 51% of the vote, he or she will be the Republican nominee. If no candidate gets 51% of the vote, there will be a runoff election between the top two vote-getters on August 22.
The official mayoral election takes place on Tuesday, November 7. However, since no one has filed as a Democratic candidate, this means that the primary election on August 8 is the only race that counts: the Republican nominee will be unopposed in the general. In a regular November election, about 7,500 people vote for mayor. An August election is likely to draw a smaller crowd, especially with many city residents out of town during the hottest months of the year.
It’s difficult to beat incumbents in American elections – in 2022, 90% of incumbents running for local executive branch offices won their races. However, with what is likely to be a relatively small turnout, a few hundred votes could make a big difference, diminishing the incumbent advantage.
Because of this, supporters of the challengers are stressing that every vote definitely counts. They are also hoping that the challengers benefit from a “throw the bums out” mentality that is animating many city residents who were opposed to the now-defunct Project Pascalis. This was the plan that would have razed the Hotel Aiken and the entire block it sits on to make a multistory hotel and parking garage. Project Pascalis is no longer under consideration, but there are other controversial plans for the area, including a downtown presence for the Savannah River Nuclear Laboratory. Many residents believe this would destroy Aiken’s small-town charm. Other changes that have raised alarms include the apparently accidental removal of old growth trees near the Farmer’s Market, and what some people contend is an official emphasis on rapid growth at the expense of preservation. Opposition to the current administration has often been quite vocal.
Although Lessie Price, a member of the Aiken City Council, has served as Mayor Pro-Tempore, no woman has ever been elected the Mayor of Aiken. This is surprising considering that women have been strong leaders in the city, and especially in equestrian culture, ever since the days of Louise Hitchcock, Godmother of the Aiken Winter Colony, and Eulalie Salley, the city’s premier realtor in the 1920s and 1930s. Could that change this year? We will find out soon enough.
The primary takes place on Tuesday, August 8. Early voting starts on Monday, July 24 and runs until Friday, August 4. Any city resident who is a registered voter is eligible to cast a ballot in the primary, regardless of party affiliation. Not sure where to vote? Your voting location will be the same one you use during all other local and national elections. Early voting will take place exclusively at the Aiken County Government Center at 1930 University Parkway. For more information on where to vote, check out the City of Aiken website: https://www.cityofaikensc.gov/voting/
Read what the candidates say about themselves: