Republicans, Democrats announce support for school board candidates

The Charleston County School Board will see its most significant shake-up in years as voters head to the polls in less than six weeks. Every seat is up for cons
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 4:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2022 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School Board will see its most significant shake-up in years as voters head to the polls in less than six weeks. Every seat is up for consideration and only three incumbents are running for reelection.

The Charleston County Republican Party released its endorsements for the board on Wednesday.

GOP endorsed candidates for the district:

  • D1 - Keith S Grybowski
  • D2 - Ed Kelley
  • D4 - Kevin Hollinshead
  • D5 - Carlotte Bailey
  • D6 - Lee Runyon
  • D8 - Darlene Dunmeyer
  • D9 - Forrest Bjork
  • *no candidates endorsed in D3 or D7

“We are hearing from dozens and dozens of people every day who want to know if we’re vetting or endorsing because we are not hearing or learning about these candidates in a manner in which we can make good, solid decisions,” Charleston GOP Chairman Maurice Washington said. “I think an endorsement from the Charleston County Republican Party is huge as it probably is from the Democratic Party or Moms for Liberty or even Coalition for Kids. I rank us up there among the best of them.”

Earlier this month the party sent a questionnaire to all candidates gauging their stance on conservative topics. Some of those questions included language around gender identity among students, Critical Race Theory and systemic racism. Washington says that the survey was part of their vetting process.

“We did include narratives that have been dominating board rooms all across America, taking the focus away from the education of our children,” Washington said. “We have to move away from those polarizing issues, issues of divide, and start focusing on the true purpose of school districts and school boards – that’s educating our kids.”

Likewise, the Charleston County Democratic Party has released its slate of candidates they say are “highly qualified.” Party bylaws do not allow them to make official endorsements in non-partisan elections.

Charleston County Democratic Party supported candidates:

  • D1 - Doyle Costello
  • D2 - Sarah Shad Johnson
  • D3 - Chris Collins
  • D4 - Kevin Hollinshead
  • D5 - ViVian Pettigrew
  • D6 - Lee Runyon
  • D7 - Sydney Van Bulck
  • D8 - Darlene Dunmeyer
  • D9 - Carol Tempel

Chair for the Democratic Party, Greg Perry, confirmed the names Wednesday. He says he hopes the announcement will help bring more attention to the races and encourage people to do more research on the candidates.

Three candidates managed to get the nod from both parties – Kevin Hollinshead in District 4, Lee Runyon in District 6 and Darlene Dunmeyer in District 8. Hollinshead was a former district board member before being unseated in 2020. Runyon is a former West Ashley High School Principal. Dunmeyer is a Hollywood native running against incumbent Helen Frazier.

Neither party is supporting any of the three board incumbents – Courtney Waters (D4), Erica Cokley (D6), Frazier (D8)

Other groups are also announcing endorsements, including Moms for Liberty – a parent group that rose in popularity in response to pandemic restrictions in schools. The conservative organization confirmed its candidates earlier in the week.

Moms for Liberty endorsed candidates:

  • D1 - Keith S Grybowski
  • D2 - Ed Kelley
  • D3 – Pam McKinney
  • D5 - Carlotte Bailey
  • D6 - Lee Runyon
  • D7 – Leah Whatley
  • D8 – Travis Bedson
  • D9 - Forrest Bjork
  • *no candidates endorsed in D4

Tara Wood with the Charleston branch of Moms for Liberty says their platform is all about giving parents a greater say in how their children are educated.

More endorsements are expected ahead of the Nov. 8 elections - including endorsements from the South Carolina Education Association and Coalition for Kids.

All district candidates:

District 1:

  • Doyle Costello
  • Miguel Figueroa (withdrew)
  • Keith S Grybowski

District 2:

  • Grace Bouldin Cowan
  • Seana J Flynn
  • Sarah Shad Johnson
  • Ed Kelley
  • EJ Milligan
  • Elizabeth Moffly
  • Mike Lyons (withdrew)
  • Barry A Slayden (withdrew)

District 3:

  • Chris Collins
  • Kristen French (I)
  • Pam McKinney
  • Ashley Peele
  • Thomas Ravenell

District 4:

  • Kevin Hollinshead
  • Courtney Waters (I)

District 5:

  • Carlotte Bailey
  • Melissa Couture
  • ViVian Sheppard Pettigrew

District 6:

  • Erica Cokley (I)
  • Lee Runyon
  • Eric Thome
  • Samuel Whatley

District 7:

  • Joy Brown
  • Jen Mieras
  • Sydney Van Bulck
  • Leah A Whatley

District 8:

  • Travis Bedson
  • Helen Davis-Frazier (I)
  • Kimberly Dawley (withdrew)
  • Darlene Dunmeyer
  • Doris Johnson
  • Eric Mack (I) (withdrew)

District 9:

  • Forrest Bjork
  • Graham Smith
  • Carol Tempel