The fight to be the 7th district's first DOT commissioner is shaping up to be a bit contentious.
At this point, from what I'm hearing, the battle seems to be down to Rick Elliott (who North Strand folks are supporting) and Mike Wooten (who Myrtle Beach and South Strand folks are supporting). I've got no idea who other folks in the district are supporting, but frankly everybody's pretty sure it's going to be a local Horry boy who wins.
It's a bit strange that the commissioner will be coming from Horry County at all, because the seats are supposed to rotate between the counties in the district, and Myrtle Beach's Danny Isaac just finished his term last year. But lawmakers decided that since we switched districts in the meantime, we can start the rotation over and have another turn. (A bit sneaky perhaps, but understandable given the commissioners' influence).
According to Sen. Ray Cleary, who I spoke with today, commissioners are also not supposed to be "close relatives" of current lawmakers or those who have served in the recent past, but somehow Rick Elliott has been determined not to be a close relative of his father Dick Elliott, who just retired this year.
If you want another wrinkle, it also just feels weird to me that Mike Wooten, who makes his money in part from building roads at DDC Engineers, would be put in charge of deciding where state road money goes. (Though I assume/hope he'd recuse himself from decisions involving his own firm.)
I hesitate to say one man's better than the other or would be a better commissioner, because I've never met or talked with either of them and have paid only minimal attention to the fight for this seat (mostly in recent conversations where it just came up). But whoever's picked, Cleary said that the district's lawmakers will probably make a final decision early next week. It'll be interesting to see who wins (and perhaps who has the influence to help that person win).
UPDATE: Rep. Tracy Edge: "I think if it came to a vote today, Elliott would win."
Edge says by his count, Elliott has 11-12 votes and Wooten has 9-10, out of 24 total. The rest are "delighting" in their swing vote status.
The reason Wooten is having trouble, Edge said: "There is a terrible Myrtle Beach chamber backlash throughout the 7th district."
But whatever happens, Edge said, both guys are very well qualified, and "everyone will be happy with whoever wins."