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The Republican primary season is in high gear in South Carolina, evidenced both by the number of campaign signs popping up like mushrooms in area yards and the number of presidential hopefuls racing around the state.
This week, GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry made two stops in Lancaster County – both to talk with senior voters. He stopped Tuesday morning at Sun City Carolina Lakes, where he spoke at the Lake House, then stopped to have lunch with the Retired Council of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce at Charley’s Cafe.
Now, we don’t like to complain, but neither of these were open forums. The Lake House is open only to Sun City Carolina Lakes residents and the chamber council luncheon was for a small, discrete group of individuals. But both events targeted a small percentage of the voting age population here in Lancaster County.
When Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced her plans to come to Lancaster County last week, guess where she was headed? That’s right, Sun City Carolina Lakes, where she planned to speak to the Sun City Republican Club. But when her sixth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses ended her run, Bachmann cancelled her trip to South Carolina, so no one here got to see her.
GOP presidential candidate and Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum made more open appearances here in September 2011. His visit started with a tea party speech at the former Elrod car dealership on S.C. 9 Bypass in Lancaster, then a tour of the L&C Railway headquarters, the Pregnancy Care Center and Lancaster Children’s Home before dinner at JoMars Family Restaurant, ending his day at, you guessed it, Sun City.
In the 2008 and 2010 elections, many of the state and national candidates followed the same pattern – heading straight for Sun City Carolina Lakes.
“This is a very active political bloc,” Sun City resident John Moellman told our reporter Tuesday. “He (Perry) should be addressing and concerned about us because we vote.”
Granted, there is a politically active crowd there, but Sun City’s total population is only about 3,300 people in a county with about 60,000 people of voting age.
So why do the candidates all head for Sun City?
Probably because in its voting precinct, there are 2,500 registered voters over the age of 65, a more concentrated number of these voters than anywhere else in the county. In the 2010 general election, 56 percent of them voted, making up 21 percent of those in this demographic who voted in that election. That’s significant, but it’s still only about 6 percent of the total number of those who voted in the county in that election.
In fact, the county’s largest voting bloc is the 35-64 age group, which includes almost 43 percent of the voters in the 2010 election, compared to the almost 30 percent for the 65 and older group.
Which begs the question, if only 30 percent of the voters in that election were over 65, why aren’t the other 70 percent – all the rest of the voters – getting as much attention from candidates?
We’re sure they would like a chance to meet the candidates in person and hear what they have to say, too.
So here’s an open request to all you political hopefuls out there – when you come to visit Lancaster County, please come to open forums in public places where we all will have a chance to meet you. If you feel compelled to visit Sun City, hold your event at the golf course clubhouse there, which is open to the public, or at the Del Webb Library at Indian Land, which is adjacent to Sun City and also open to the public.
If you want to serve the public, shouldn’t you start by meeting the public in a public space?