Residents in Sumter School Board's District 1 knew they would have a new neighbor representing them on the Board of Trustees after Tuesday's election, and now they know it will likely be Brian Alston.
Alston is claiming victory in the four-candidate race for the seat that covers eight precincts in the most northwestern portion of Sumter with 1,299 votes or 38.59 percent of the total vote, according to unofficial results that came in Tuesday night. Some absentee ballots were still being counted after all precincts reported.
Precincts included in District 1 are Rembert, Horatio, Hillcrest, DeLaine, Cherrybale, Manchester Forest, St. Paul and Thomas Sumter.
"It's been a long campaign season. This is not a win for me. This is a win for our students, our educators, our business and industries and our communities," said Alston, a workforce support coordinator with the state Department of Employment and Workforce in Columbia. "Together, we made this happen. Now, the real work begins."
Linda Alston, of no relation to the challenger Alston, previously held the seat for a single four-year term. She announced in August she would not be seeking re-election.
The lead-up to Tuesday for District 1 featured all four candidates attending a public forum hosted by a coalition of top teachers in Sumter School District.
Last week, the non-partisan race made headlines when Barbara Bowman, who is also the Sumter County Democratic Party chair, was caught on a recording calling her fellow opponent Alston a gay slur amid a string of other profanities aimed at him and other Democrats.
Alston, community members called for her to resign from the party position and remove herself from the race, and the state Democratic Party chair publicly asked her to apologize. She did apologize through The Sumter Item, which obtained the recording, in an initial and follow-up article but said she would press on through the midterm.
Alston, 29, is the youngest of the 21 candidates who ran for one of six school board seats, a point he emphasized during the campaign as a quality that allows him to relate to the district's students — a district he from where he also graduated.
Caleb M. Kershaw Jr., a U.S. Army veteran and small-business owner, came in third with 22.43 percent of the vote, while Mark Myers, a retired industry worker and part-time farmer and horseman, came in fourth with 17.71 percent of the vote.
Alston said he ran on the promise to five a voice to the parties involved in making a community and a school system thrive.
"As I said all along, those voices can only be heard by someone who listens," he siad. "Thank you for voting for me. This is their seat. I'm simply representing Area 1. And they elected me, but I'm representing all of Sumter School District."
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