Hampton County part of South Carolina GOP’s largest party reorganization in state history, with more women taking leadership roles.
In recent years, Hampton County has been a Democratic Party stronghold in the midst of a predominantly Republican state. That may be about to change, if local Republicans have anything to say about it.
South Carolina has elected a Republican governor in three straight elections, since 2011. Republicans currently dominate the S.C. General Assembly. But in Hampton County, a high-minority, rural county with a total population of 21,090, the locals will tell you that the winner of the Democratic Party Primary usually wins the general elections. Here, even many die-hard conservatives put their names on the Democratic ticket so they stand a fighting chance of winning a local election.
But the Democratic Party might want to watch its back. On May 15, following a statewide GOP convention, the SCGOP announced that the Hampton County Republican Party had grown its membership by 1,350 percent since 2019.
“Thanks to the grassroots activists across the state, the SCGOP is stronger than it’s ever been,” said SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick in a news release following the state convention. “We’ve proven we have a winning coalition of conservatives who are committed to beating Democrats, and I’m honored they’ve chosen to reelect me to lead that fight. Now we can roll up our sleeves to continue what we do best–win elections.”
Not only is Hampton County leading the way in SCGOP growth, it is also following the statewide SCGOP trend of electing more women into leadership positions. Amy Shaffer is the Chairperson of the local party committee, and Ashley Lawton, who recently ran for S.C. House of Representatives District 122, is an Executive Committeeman.
Shaffer reached out to fellow citizens in March of 2018 and officially formed the H.C. Republican Party with only five members. At the time, the committee was searching for candidates to run in the 2020 election and was able to secure three candidates to run from throughout area.
In July of 2020, Shaffer was voted in as chairman, and the group began a campaign to get others involved and letting the county know what they stood for. By March of 2020, the HC GOP had 58 active members sign up at reorganization.
“Citizens are motivated out of genuine concern that they are losing their individual freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, 2nd Amendment rights,” said Shaffer. “There are large groups of citizens in our county who believe in creating a community that provides equal opportunity where all citizens can thrive. The party has become involved locally, and at the state and national level. Because of this enthusiasm and growth, for the first time Hampton County was represented at the state convention by a full delegation of five. We hope to increase the number of county delegates in 2022 by encouraging citizens to register and to vote in the Republican primaries, which determines the amount of county delegates we can have.”
Shaffer said the newly reorganized and re-motivated party has been teaching classes on poll watching to secure poll watchers throughout the county on election days. Other volunteers focus on clearing old voter logs by going through deceased voter list and finding ones that were still registered to vote. The HC GOP is also working with Engage The Right, a conservative, grassroots voting rights organization, and the S.C. Judicial Board, to purge the voter logs of ineligible voters and help ensure fair, legal elections, said Shaffer.
Other members are focusing on attending board meetings across the county to ensure conservative voices are being heard in these meetings.
“Some of our members made thousands of phone calls and mailed hundreds of postcards across the county to voters to inform them of Republican candidates running for office,” said Shaffer. “They were very proud of what they had accomplished in only five months of organization.”
“In addition, Hampton County citizens have expressed their insecurities in our voting system,” Shaffer said. “The H.C. Republican Party is educating people and getting the community involved to better understand how the election system works, what laws need to be changed and how we can make our elections more secure.”
Shaffer added that the H.C. Republican Party aligns with S.C. Rep. Senator Tim Scott on police reform and investing in more police and police training.
“We want our citizens to feel secure and the current idea of defunding our police will only create an atmosphere that makes the citizens and law enforcement more vulnerable to criminal acts.”
Hampton County also recently hosted four counties for the SCGOP State Convention in Varnville. Per state law and party rules, the SCGOP reorganizes every two years.
Participation from 2019 to 2021 doubled with officially organized county parties in all 46 counties–for the first time in a decade, says the SCGOP. All counties had tremendous growth, but Hampton County had the largest percent increase with 1,350 percent growth. Oconee County increased by 433 percent and Lee County increased by 350 percent, stated the SCGOP news release.
The release added that, under Chairman McKissick’s leadership since 2017, the SCGOP as a whole has grown exponentially. During his last term alone, the SCGOP increased membership to its grassroots donor support system by 300 percent, identified more than 6,000 volunteers, and directed the Victory 2020 program that elected the most Republicans across the state since the Civil War and beat Democrats by 17 points.
Chairman McKissick also serves on the Republican National Committee Election Integrity Committee and was endorsed by President Trump three times.