Is Clarendon County now seeing red? Pedalino will be 1st Republican in county’s House seat; Coker ousts Blakely on council


In a district long held by Democrats, a Republican now takes the South Carolina state House seat for the first time in four decades.

Republican challenger Fawn Pedalino won the House District 64 seat with 55.12% of the vote, or 7,758 votes, over first-term incumbent Kimberly Johnson's 6,303 votes, or 44.78%, on Tuesday.

Pedalino said she wants to participate in making new laws during her time in office, changing old laws and studying what outcome laws will have on the people of her district and the state.

Pedalino is not a native of Clarendon County but has lived in the county since 2010, attending schools in Summerville. She owns an IT business with her husband that deals with commercial IT, and they have a storefront in Manning for residential computer and phone repairs.

Pedalino said the biggest issue she feels Clarendon County is facing right now is a lack of transparency given to residents.

On her website, she has three transparency issues she says she feels residents of the county need to know about: superintendent salary overcompensation, Clarendon County Voter Registration Board issues and Clarendon County appointed school board members' salary.

Pedalino mentioned in her campaign that she would bring transparency to Clarendon residents about government spending, including bringing to question Clarendon County School District Superintendent Shawn Johnson's salary, which was first reported on by The Sumter Item.

The Sumter Item reached out multiple times to Pedalino. No response was given, but she posted on Facebook about her win.

The post read: "Thank you to all who came out and voted! To the people who helped on my campaign, I could never repay you for your blood, sweat and tears. I think we knocked on over 5,000 doors with all of the help we had! I look forward to working in our community and continuing with our transparency movement!"

Democrats have held the District 64 seat in the Statehouse for 45 years. But this race wasn't even significantly close, and it was because of Clarendon County voters, the majority of the district.

Of the just more than 14,000 votes cast in the race, more than 11,300 were cast in Clarendon. Pedalino took 58.25% of those votes. Sumter County voters, however, supported Johnson, giving her 58.09% of their votes.

Johnson has served alongside her father, Sen. Kevin Johnson, who is in his third term. Both of their districts reach into Sumter County. She has previously served on school boards in Manning and was on a short list for Joe Cunningham's lieutenant governor.

She witnessed her father's experience in politics from when he was the mayor of Manning for 11 years. He never pushed her into politics, she said. He wanted to make sure she was doing it because she wanted to and not because that is what others wanted.

Johnson took to Facebook on Wednesday to create a new hashtag, #SilentNoMore.

Her post read, "#SilentNoMore means I am going to speak on the things I've seen as a lifelong resident in this county but especially what I've seen the past 8 months on the campaign trail. But the first thing I am going to do is delete and block people who have drained me even before this election. And if they post something, please don't screenshot it and send it to me."

The Sumter Item reached out multiple times to both Sen. Johnson and Rep. Johnson, but no response was given from Rep. Johnson. Sen. Johnson was busy in  session and picking up campaign signs until late in the night. 

A party rising?

Shifts in demographics among electoral lines are inevitable across the country, whether because of how lines are redrawn or because of changes in residents.

Dwight Stewart, Clarendon County Council chair, said he thinks with people moving into the county, the demographics have changed.

"We will definitely start seeing a mix of parties in future elections through Clarendon County. We even now have a Republican on county council," Stewart said.

Looking back on the history of District 64, Clarendon County has had close calls, but Democrats have taken the win every election in recent history.

In 1977, Alex Harvin lll took office to represent the district and held that position for nearly 30 years until 2005 when he passed away from cancer.

He was the longest-serving member of the House and served on several committees like the House Rules Committee as vice chair, the House Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental Affairs committees and was a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee.

During a special election for the seat, Harvin's wife, Cathy, won and held office from 2006 until 2010. She faced no Republican challengers.

She sat on the District 64 seat until her death in 2010 at the age of 56.

In 2012, Democrat Robert Ridgeway took the win with 58.62% behind him. Ridgeway held the seat for six years and faced challengers until 2020 when he did not file for reelection.

For the 2020 election, Johnson and her Republican opponent, Cindy Risher, had a 1,012-vote difference.

Johnson took the District 64 seat with 53.37%.

The Sumter Item conducted this research through

Clarendon County Council seats split between parties

Even a local seat went to a Republican that was long held by a Democrat.

Republican challenger Pat Coker won the county council seat representing District 3 in the Turbeville area, ousting Democrat Benton Blakely, who had served on council for 27 years.

Coker took 61.34% of the votes, or 1,680 votes, over Blakely, who had 1,057 votes, or 38.59%.

Coker has lived in Turbeville his entire life and is a farmer, owner and operator of South Park Auto Sales, South Park Towing, Anytime Tire and Towing and JPC Properties LLC.

He said he hopes to see business growth in Clarendon in the next few years with improvements to roads, lowered taxes and improved education.

"I will work together with other councilmen to make not only District 3 but the entire county a better and safe place to live," Coker said.

While Blakely lost his bid, another councilman retained his seat.

Billy Richardson will serve another term for District 1, representing the Summerton area.

Richardson took 51.06% of the vote, or 1,611 votes, over his Republican challenger Joseph A. Pedalino - Fawn Pedalino's father-in-law - who took 48.84% of the vote, or 1,541 votes.

Richardson, a Summerton native, will represent District 1 for Clarendon County with hopes of continuing to improve Clarendon as a place to live and work while listening to the concerns and needs of District 1 residents.

Richardson has served on Clarendon County Council for more than 25 years and served six years on the school board in Summerton before consolidation.