By Rae Walberg for The Island Eye News
In the June 9 primary election, touted as historic based on voter turnout, Democrat Daniel Brownstein and Republican Joe Bustos emerged as contenders for the House District 112 seat that will soon be vacated by retiring incumbent Mike Sottile.
Executive Director of the Charleston Board of Elections & Voter Registration Joseph Debney described the primary as unusual as well, with Charleston County amassing 20,000 mail-in ballots and an additional 44,000 in-person votes. Those who showed up at polling places were greeted with a large Q-tip which they were required to use to touch the voting machine. When they were finished, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the machines were wiped down by poll managers, according to Debney.
He attributed the record-breaking election to the high number of candidates in the various races.
“Normally our primary doesn’t have as many candidates on the ballot, so it’s a more competitive race for people to vote on,” Debney said.
In District 112, which includes Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island and part of Mount Pleasant, the four candidates seeking Sottile’s spot in the House attracted nearly 9,000 votes, a 43% increase over the 2018 Republican primary.
Bustos, the former Mount Pleasant Council member, defeated Isle of Palms Councilman Ryan Buckhannon in the Republican primary by more than 500 votes – 2,936 to 2,473. Brownstein
secured the Democratic nomination with a narrow 1,788 to 1,693 win over David Quick.
Both Bustos and Brownstein said they were impressed by the turnout at the polls.
“I was very happy with the election results. We had a lot of voters turn out to vote, and I was just glad to see so many people taking part in the process,” Bustos commented.
Buckhannon said he was humbled by the people he met and the endorsements he received along the campaign trail.
“I enjoyed campaigning. I got a lot of support from different groups and committees,” Buckhannon said.
“And that’s the biggest thing – just a big thank you to everybody.”
Buckhannon, who has been an IOP councilman for almost 20 years, said that while he enjoyed the campaign process, the election results were a win for him.
“I love doing what I was doing here on the Isle of Palms,” Buckhannon said. “Honestly, working with the residents personally, working with the businesses personally and going to make sure they’re good once they opened up. I would’ve missed that.”
While Buckhannon endorsed fellow Republican Bustos for the position, he said he’s committed to working with whoever wins to improve infrastructure in the Lowcountry.
Along with education, conservation and tax reform, Bustos is also campaigning on the promise of improved infrastructure.
Bustos, a Mount Pleasant native, served on the Town Council from 2000 to 2009 and again from 2015 to 2019, which he said makes him “intimately familiar” with the area.
“I just think I’m the most experienced candidate. I have been involved in the community of Isle Palms, Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant for a long time, and I just look forward to representing the people of the district in Columbia,” Bustos said.
Brownstein, who said he has an extensive background in criminal justice reform and in reporting on state and local government, has prided himself on not being a “career politician.”
“I think there is something to be said about sending somebody new into office,” Brownstein stated. “I think that I can bring a fresh perspective. I think that if you talk to people, they’ll let you know how open I am. I’m willing to listen to new ideas and to consider new ideas.”
Brownstein’s four-pointplan focuses on environmental protection and education reform while citing the need for criminal justice reform and helping small businesses and individuals recover from the ramifications of COVID-19.
With Democrat Brownstein and Republican Bustos set to face off in November, both have expressed confidence in their campaigns.
“We really think that having Joe as our opponent in the general election is a good thing,” Brownstein said. “I think he’s going to be tough, but I think we can show that we have better ideas, that we have a positive message and that we can engage with every voter in this district.”