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May wins runoff to take retiring Representative Mac Toole’s House District 88 seat

Red Bank, SC (Paul Kirby) – In the runoff election to fill the SC House District 88 seat that will be open after the current incumbent Representative Mac Toole retires at the end of the year, R.J. May was the top vote grabber on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 winning the seat. The unofficial count shows May prevailed by just 166 votes. Since there is no Democrat running in the general election in November, May, the winner of Tuesday’s race will almost certainly take the seat and be sworn in next year at the end of Toole’s term.

At 8:21 p.m., the unverified results showed R.J. May had received 1,378 votes or 53.25%. Mike Sturkie took 1,210 votes or 46.75%. Only 10.23% of the district's registered voters cast their ballots in the runoff Tuesday.

May's opponent, Mike Sturkie, had family that settled in the area hundreds of years ago. Some called him a "Good Ole' Boy" that never passed a sweetheart deal or backroom play. This was a charge he flatly denied many times. He owns a construction company and a construction and demolition debris landfill and recycling operation.

May was often described as the new kid on the block. He moved from to South Carolina from Virginia several years ago and owns a small business that handles political campaigns and some public relations work. Another voter described him as a man that's "Already a career politician who's just never held public office before!"

This was the most heated race that many in the area and Lexington County have ever seen. There was a mountain of mailers sent to the point that some voters became angry just at getting more. One who spoke with The Ledger Monday said she and her husband had left town on Friday for a short vacation. The couple returned Sunday evening. She said that they did not check their mail Friday or Saturday and in those two days and when they returned, they had received 12 pieces of political literature about the House District 88 race. “That’s just crazy,” she said. “It infuriates me just thinking about it!”

Other voters we spoke with said they were so confused by all the conflicting information they’d received; they just weren’t going to vote. “I truthfully don’t know either of these men personally and now I don’t trust either of them. If this is what elections are turning into in Lexington County, I don’t know if I’ll ever vote again. My husband and I plan to vote none of the above by not voting at all Tuesday,” that voter concluded.

"House races are extremely important,” Representative Kit Spires recently said. “House members are the people that can have a huge impact on the lives of the people in their districts,” Spires continued. “They are the citizens’ legislators that people should be able to stop by and speak with at their home or businesses. These representatives they’ll see at church or maybe bump into at the grocery store.”

Over the weekend, incumbent Mac Toole came out and endorsed candidate R.J. May. Toole had told numerous people that he was going to remain neutral in the race so many were stunned by that. Lexington County Councilman Bobby Keisler, who is also retiring at the end of the year, said Monday that he had received as many calls since Sunday evening about Toole’s endorsement as he had about the race itself. Keisler said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon that many of the citizens across the district had contacted him to say they were shocked, disappointed, and some were even angry that Toole, who was always very respected, would go back on his word.

In his official endorsement of May, Toole appeared to know that action would not be received well by some of his friends and past supporters. He wrote, “I had always planned to remain neutral in the race for House District 88. I know I have friends supporting both candidates, and I pray after Tuesday’s election those friendships remain.” (See the story on Toole’s endorsement by clicking this LINK)

Mike Sturkie was the top vote grabber in the primary on June 9th. He said before Tuesday’s election that he had talked with Toole after his endorsement of May and he told him the June 9th vote seemed to be a clear message from the people Toole represented. “I told him that when I beat R.J. by more than 500 votes in the Republican primary that was a message from his constituents that he said he represented. The majority had already made their choice known. He was at the state house to represent the people of House District 88, not himself. To get involved a few days before the runoff and support May was a betrayal of the citizens who supported him for so many years. Especially when he told many of us, including constituents that he was staying out of it.” Apparently May's strategy of campaigning and Toole's last minute endorsement paid off for May. In the end, it apparently pushed him over the top.

No matter whether Toole’s endorsement helped or hurt, how the race was run, or how many turned out to vote, the people who did vote Tuesday made their choice and they chose May. Now it will be up to him to prove over the next two years he was the right person for the job. In two years, if the majority of the constituents in House District 88 are not convinced they made the correct choice in 2020, they can fire him with their ballots and give someone else a try.

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