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Stacks of paper ballots. Passionate speakers and miniature American flags. Dozens of people adorned with political stickers.
That was the scene as the Lancaster County Republican Party held its 2009 convention Tuesday.
Winston Smith, the county party’s chairman, was surprised by the turnout at the Carole Ray Dowling Center at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. Smith said he counted at least 100 attendees, most seated at tables throughout the room.
“It was a good turnout,” Smith said. “That’s probably a record for a Republican convention in Lancaster County.”
After speaking with area Republicans, Smith said many have recently become involved in the political process.
“People, I guess, are coming to the conclusion that they have to become active or our government is going to run away from us,” Smith said. “It’s not that it’s a good time to get involved. It’s absolutely essential to get involved.”
At the annual meeting, members of the party gather to elect state and district delegates, as well as local party officers. Another big draw at the meeting were speeches from elected GOP officials and candidates running for upcoming elections.
Speakers included state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, R-District 16; state Rep. Deborah Long, R-District 45; and District 1 County Councilman Larry McCullough.
Karen Floyd, candidate for the state GOP chair, also addressed the crowd, as did Attorney General Henry McMaster, a candidate for governor in 2010.
Floyd said she decided to run for the state GOP chair after hearing horror stories about how the Republican Party had lost its way. She said she wants to help aim the state GOP in the right direction.
Floyd stressed fiscal and social conservatism as the ideals the party should focus on.
“I feel so called to do this,” Floyd said. “Let’s unify as a party. We need to have every county in South Carolina organize and put Republicans back in the seats they deserve.”
McMaster asked for votes in his run for governor.
He said his experience both as U.S. attorney and as attorney general show that he can “get the job done.”
“I’ve been in the arena trying to get things done for this state,” McMaster said. “If you love what I’ve done as your attorney general, you’ll love what I’ll do as your governor.”
U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster, R-3rd District, also plans to seek the GOP nomination for governor in 2010. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is also considered a likely GOP candidate.
Neither Barrett nor Bauer were at the local convention.
Long read a letter from Speaker of the (state) House Bobby Harrell, in which he discussed the importance of fighting for conservatism.
Long followed up with her own comments about her first days in office, and her desire to find ways to turn a negative economy into a positive situation.
“I keep hearing that these are unprecedented times, but we should turn this into unprecedented opportunities for us,” Long said.
Mulvaney said he was impressed at the increased level of participation in political issues, particularly the strong turnout at the recent TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Parties in Lancaster and Columbia. He also noted the involvement of a broad range of ages.
“We have young people here,” Mulvaney said. “I haven’t seen that since I got involved with the Republican Party.”
He also said it was important that Republicans stay involved in the political process and learn from past mistakes.
“The message is that this party can pull together,” Mulvaney said. “We’ve made some mistakes, but we’ll get stronger.”
McCullough, who was elected to Lancaster County Council last fall, said he was excited to be addressing the county’s Republican party.
“I’ve never been to a Republican convention and now I’m speaking at one,” McCullough said.
He gave the crowd an update on new businesses coming to the county and addressed growth in Indian Land, which is in his district. He said he’ll continue to focus on economic growth in the area. And despite being the only Republican on County Council, McCullough said his job is to put party affiliations aside for the betterment of the county.
“The key ingredient is to work together as a team,” he said. “We’re there to serve all of Lancaster County.”
Attendees also voted for county delegates to the state convention.
There were 55 names on the ballot, and 12 people were elected. They are: Charlie Bundy, Bob Bundy, Randy Collins, William Duke, Danny Faulkner, Larry Helm, Larry McCullough, David McGriff II, Huey Mills, Al Simpson, Winston Smith and Roger Summey.
The group also voted for 12 alternates.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 416-8416