Withdrawn candidate wins, leaving questions for school board

In District 6, incumbent Erica Cokley won reelection. However, the problem is she unofficially withdrew from the race months earlier.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 4:05 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 5:54 PM EST
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The votes have been counted and, while at least seven of the nine seats will be occupied by new board members, we still don’t know the final composition of the Charleston County School Board just yet.

In District 6, incumbent Erica Cokley won reelection. However, the problem is she unofficially withdrew from the race months earlier. Executive Director of the Charleston Board of Elections Isaac Cramer said in a statement:

“I don’t have a letter withdrawing her name from the ballot. When we certify the results of the election, if she has the most votes, she will be certified. The board members are then sworn in the following Friday.”

She won 34% of the vote, topping Lee Runyon with 30%.

Cokley has not responded to multiple requests for comments but she did post on Facebook on election night confirming her withdrawal from the race.

“YES I DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE,” Cokley wrote. “Yep I left SC to protect myself and my last 2 surviving children.”

She says she left the race earlier in the year after receiving a text message in December threatening her son. Her son ended up dying several weeks later.

The school district released a statement saying they haven’t heard from Cokley.

“District staff members have not spoken with Ms. Cokley about her intent to return to the CCSD Board of Trustees if she is the certified winner. If she does not accept the seat, the remaining members of the new Board of Trustees will address the matter after they have been certified and officially taken their seats,” the statement reads.

New board members are expected to be sworn in at a special board meeting on Nov. 18. If Cokley does not show up to be sworn in, the seat will be considered vacant and then the Charleston County legislative delegation will fill the seat. That process could take months.

There are two other races where a clear winner has not been determined. District 5 is expected to get a recount after just five votes separates Carlotte Bailey and ViVian Pettigrew. Adding another wrench to this race is a little-known law that bars school board candidates from receiving payment as a teacher. SC 59-19-300 says “It shall be unlawful for a school trustee to receive pay as a teacher of a free public school that is located in the same school district of which such person is a trustee.”

READ MORE: Charleston Co. School Board expected to have 8 new members after unprecedented election

Bailey currently works for the district, however, because the wording in the law is very specific – the district hasn’t said whether or not Bailey would have to leave her post. She also hasn’t returned a request for comment.

District 8 will also get recount. Darlene Dunmeyer took in 4,851 votes to Travis Bedson’s 4,749. Because the race is within 1 percent an automatic recount is triggered. The recount will take place after certification on Friday.

Here are the new board members as of today:

D1 – Keith Grybowski

D2 – Ed Kelley

D3- Pam McKinney

D4 – Courtney Waters (I)

D5 – Carlotte Bailey (Recount)

D6 – Erica Cokley (I) (unofficially withdrew)

D7 – Leah Whatley

D8 – Darlene Dunmeyer (RECOUNT)

D9 – Carol Tempel