This Just In

Moderate Molly Spearman Beats Sally Atwater in GOP Runoff

Plus, After Gay Police Chief's Firing, Latta Votes to Change Government
By Eva Moore
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 |

In Tuesday’s runoff election, Molly Spearman beat Sally Atwater, the widow of conservative political operative Lee Atwater, to become the GOP’s candidate for superintendent of education. The race was ugly in its final days, marked by rumors that Spearman was a closet Democrat and Atwater was, at best, incompetent. Spearman, if elected in November, would be a less conservative voice than incumbent Superintendent Mick Zais, who’s made a big show of rejecting federal funds and programs.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Tom Thompson beat Sheila Gallagher for the superintendent nomination, proving that maybe South Carolina Democrats aren’t ready to free the weed after all. (Gallagher came out early for legalizing marijuana as a way to fund schools.) See all runoff results here.

The small town of Latta voted overwhelmingly to change its form of government, wresting power from the mayor who fired popular police chief Crystal Moore, who is gay, in April.

In Lexington County, longtime County Councilman Bill Banning lost to Ned Tolar, who’s upset about the county’s push for a sales tax hike to fund road projects.

Two Florida strippers continue to be a major theme of testimony at the corruption trial of businessman Jonathan Pinson. On Tuesday, The State reports, a Florida businessman testified that he flew Pinson and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin to Florida, where “he paid two women who worked at Rachel’s strip club between $1,000 and $1,100 to return to the Westin hotel where Zahn had booked rooms for the group. ... [The witness] testified that as Benjamin, Pinson and others on the trip were leaving Rachel’s and heading back to the Westin ‘to have cocktails ... one of the girls asked me out in the hall, ‘What are we talking about here?’ ’” At that point, the defense objected and the testimony on that point was stopped.

Columbia City Council voted Tuesday night to borrow $35 million by issuing bonds backed up by hospitality tax revenues to build the much-discussed Bull Street baseball stadium. Councilman Moe Baddourah, at the last minute, asked the mayor why the city wasn’t holding a voter referendum on issuing the bonds. But as Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine (who voted against the stadium) pointed out, the city has already obligated itself to pay for the stadium somehow.

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