Sumter’s mayoral race went from six to two candidates left in the running after the initial ballot count showed a runoff between the two current council members in the race.
Candidates David Merchant and Calvin Hastie had the two most votes, respectively, against the other four candidates, Foxy Rae Campbell, Archie Parnell, Debbie Bowen and Sabrina Belcher, respectively.
According to unofficial totals from Sumter County’s and the state election office, the two will go into a head-to-head runoff on Nov. 17 because no candidate won more than 50% of the vote.
With absentee ballots and all the city’s 33 precincts reporting, Merchant has 41.7% of the vote (7,034 votes), and Hastie has 28.1% (4,750 votes.)
“With six candidates, it’d be tough for anybody to get a majority (vote) with six, so we knew that was out there,” Merchant said. “We thought we might have a chance, and we still might. Who knows? We’ll just have to get our folks back out in two weeks.”
Merchant, the current Ward 6 councilman, is a local businessman who is running on a platform to improve quality of life by growing the city’s manufacturing sector, nurturing its relationship with Shaw Air Force Base and Third Army’s U.S. Army Central and increasing local workforce readiness and opportunity.
Merchant has served Ward 6 since 2008, which covers west of downtown, Swan Lake-Iris Gardens and neighborhoods to the south around Green Swamp, USC Sumter and neighborhoods around Alice Drive up to Wesmark Boulevard.
His Ward 6 seat was up for election this year, but he decided not to run to focus on the mayoral race.
Hastie, who has served on council representing City Ward 3 since 2010, which covers the region south of downtown, plans to continue sharing his platform and encouraging the other four candidates voters to come back out to the polls in a couple weeks and support his campaign.
“I want to congratulate all the other candidates. I thought a lot of them did a great job, but there are a lot of voters out there,” Hastie said. “I’m going to be reaching out to them discussing my platform to them and seeing if I can get them to join me on my platform.”
Hastie set goals to address public safety concerns, litter and affordable housing while supporting industry, youth development and the military in his campaign.
He’s excited to get back out into the community to share his plans and make Sumter not only a good community, but a great community.
“It feels great, and I’m looking forward to the runoff,” Hastie said. “Merchant and I have been sitting side-by-side council for the last eight years. We’ve always had a wonderful relationship and that will continue after Nov. 17.”
His council seat was not up for election this year, so if he wins the seat in the runoff, Ward 3 will have a special election for a new district representative.
Foxy Rae Campbell is the first to miss the runoff by coming in third with 11.6% of the vote, followed by Archie Parnell (9.8%), Debbie Bowen (5.6%) and Sabrina Belcher (2.7%).