BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — In this year’s election in Beaufort County there are a variety of seats and topics that should get voters to the polls.
But what are the political parties themselves saying about turnout and what voters are looking for?
“I think that people are very very motivated to vote. That’s the feedback we are getting on the 10’s of thousands of phone calls we are making,” said Kevin Hennelly, Beaufort County Republican Party Chairman.
A call to arms, or to vote for folks around South Carolina. The statewide numbers show about 50,000 people came to the polls for early voting last week alone. More than 1,000 of those in Beaufort County on the first day of early voting alone.
Hennelly said the economy and inflation are issue number one for the voters they have spoken to.
“People are so upset. They are mad,” said Hennelly. “They just can’t wait to get in that booth and pull that level. That straight R lever. I think this will be a repudiation of the Democratic party top to bottom.”
Democrats have their feelings on what is drawing the crowds, and questions about personal feelings, especially when it comes to abortion.
“The Dobbs decision has driven a lot of women to the polls,” said Kathleen Hughes, Beaufort County Democratic Chairperson. “Women who are not as likely to participate as well as women who might not normally be a Democratic voter. that is a huge motivation.”
But that’s an issue that national polls show may only be fifth on the list for likely voters.
“The only thing they can talk about is abortion and that subject keeps moving down the list of priorities thanks to President Biden,” said Hennelly. “He keeps pushing it further and further down.”
Hughes knows it’s a tough test in a predominantly red county like Beaufort. But she looks back to 2018 when 55% of voters cast their ballot for Congressional candidate Joe Cunningham. That helped him break a 40-year stranglehold on the seat for Republicans. With Cunningham running for governor this time around, she hopes the numbers may be similar.
“I think that a lot of people are done with the hyper-partisanship, in the way that people are treated,” said Hughes. “We don’t love that here in Beaufort County. I think that a lot of people will be concerned about that as well and will be coming to the middle for that reason alone.”
Hennelly doesn’t believe all the polls. He says there are many people out there who aren’t talking about candidates, until Election Day.
“The secret majority. They are saving it for the voting booth,” said Hennelly. “They are not comfortable talking about how they feel in public, they are not comfortable talking about it at work. They are not comfortable talking about it in social circles. They are screaming it from the rooftops when they get in the voting booth.”
While they have very different opinions on what will happen on Election Day and who you should vote for, both these leaders agree, you need to get out and make your voice heard.
“I believe very very strongly in the right to vote and have very little patience for anyone who says otherwise,” said Kevin.
“We do hope it’s an unpredictable moment,” said Kathleen. “All we can do is reach out to voters who don’t always vote. Inspire those who do. And all we can do is get up and make sure we go to the polls.”
“We want every voter to vote,” said Hennelly. “We try to reach out to every voter. It would be really easy to just call voters who voted in the last election. Well they are probably going to vote in the next one, aren’t they? But you have to go after every single voter.”
In addition to Senate and Congress on the ballot, 3 State House positions, 3 County Council spots, and 2 County Schoolboard seats are all contested, as well as Mayor and Two Town Council spots on Hilton Head Island, and five people running for two spots in the City of Beaufort.
Early voting runs through Saturday at four locations in Beaufort County.