Dorchester County Council member swaps parties

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 3:31 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2022 at 7:19 PM EST
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Republicans have seized total control in Dorchester County. On Monday, the county’s last elected Democrat announced she is switching parties.

County Councilwoman Harriet Holman says she has been considering the switch for more than six months. As a pro-life, retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, Holman says she has always stood for many of the same principles reflected in the Republican platform.

“I have talked to my constituents and one thing that my constituents know is that I am still Harriet Holman,” Holman said. “There’s an ‘R’ behind my name but I still work and am a servant for the people in Dorchester County.”

Holman, whose district consists of northern Dorchester County and St. George, says she was often reminded by her colleagues at county council meetings that she was voting in a conservative way.

She was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to take over the district one seat in 2018 and will run for reelection this year.

She says she was brought up as Democrat as a child and simply stuck with the label, but as she started researching more about the Republican platform, she found her ideologies were more in line with conservative values.

“I have looked at things that are going on in the country right now and somethings I don’t agree with, and I agree with the Republican agenda,” Holman said. “I decided to make the switch because, first it was in my heart. I am a conservative and I have been living that lifestyle for years.”

It will be the first election to use the county’s new redistricting lines which dramatically changed the layout of districts. The town of St. George was split by two districts before the lines were redrawn. Holman holds District 1 while local political heavyweight George Bailey holds District 3.

Bailey suggested a redistricting plan that reduced his district to a much small area closer to North Charleston. That suggestion left Bailey living outside his district and putting him in direct competition with Holman.

However, Bailey, a Republican, agreed to retire and endorse Holman regardless of party affiliation.

“Unfortunately, she had an opponent that planned to run against her. I called her back to my office and I said, ‘Harriet you have to make the swap, because I am not going to let this man run unopposed as a Republican. I will run and whip him and then you have to do battle with me,’” Bailey said. He also switched parties back in 2004 and was accused of foul play by Democrats for leaving them without a candidate for the District 97 state house seat.

The new district lines were set in December, but Holman says she was already in talks with the local party chair Steven Wright well before any decisions about district lines were made.

“My decision was already made,” Holman said. “It was not made because of the challenger. Understand that is not why I made this decision. I had already been talking to Steven for about six months before that.”

State Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick says Holman is the future of the party that aims to build a diverse coalition.

“The message matters. The more people that are exposed to our message the better we are going to do,” McKissick said. “A few weeks ago we had an African American conservative businessman winning our nomination for a senate primary up in Florence County. In a couple weeks, we expect he will be elected to the state senate. All across the state our party is getting more diverse because more people are being exposed our ideas and our principles and that leads to success at the ballot box.”

This is another major win for South Carolina Republicans who have seen a number of electoral victories.

In November, voters in Georgetown replaced all of their Democrats on the city council with Republicans, including the city’s first Republican mayor.

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