By Stan Welch
As the runoff between Rep. Mike Gambrell and Williamston Town Councilman Rockey Burgess draws near, Gambrell has picked up two endorsements that could potentially seal the election for him. One comes from the widow of the late Senator Billy O’Dell,whose untimely death earlier this year vacated the seat that is now being contested by the two top vote getters in the preliminary election.
The presence of three other candidates in that first round likely prevented Gambrell from winning the seat outright with fifty per cent of the vote. Tripp Padgett, of Greenwood, Willie Day, of Anderson, and Mark Powell, of Williamston garnered a combined seventeen per cent of the votes cast in the District Four Senate election.
Gambrell gathered forty six per cent while Burgess gathered thirty seven. The failure by Gambrell to reach the fifty per cent thresh hold caused the runoff.
Mrs. O’Dell, who often accompanied her husband on both the campaign trail, and to various events within his district, stressed in her endorsement that the Senator always spoke glowingly of Gambrell’s commitment to constituent service, which was also a benchmark of Senator O’Dell’s philosophy.
“I felt that it would be best to wait and see if a runoff were necessary before making any endorsement. But now that a runoff is imminent, I feel that it is important for me to support Mike. He has a record of listening and responding to his constituents, and that reflects my husband’s many years of service as well. I feel that Mike Gambrell will do a good job for the people of District Four.”
While Mrs. O’Dell’s endorsement is likely to carry the most weight, especially in the Abbeville and Anderson County portions of the district, Gambrell has informed The Journal that Greenwood attorney Tripp Padgett has also endorsed him, which may result in significant movement of his voters towards Gambrell.
Traditionally, runoffs of special elections suffer from very low turnout, so the impact of either of the endorsements remains to be seen. Padgett polled at less than three per cent in Anderson County, also calling into question the impact of his endorsement in this area. He did, however,carry Greenwood County in the initial round.
The runoff will be held next Tuesday, April 5. Absentee balloting has already begun.