Charleston Count School District | CP file photo

Three candidates will face each other in a special Feb. 7 Charleston County school board election to fill a West Ashley seat that the November winner didn’t take.

Newcomers Daron Lee Calhoun II and Theresa Griffith, both of West Ashley, will face former West Ashley principal Lee Runyon in the special election for District 6 school board trustee.  Runyon came in second in a field of four last month.

Isaac Cramer, executive director of the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration, said the special election likely would cost $30,000 to $50,000 to conduct. 

“We are aiming for over 100 poll managers,” he said.

Early voting will start Jan. 23 at the commission’s office in North Charleston. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

What led to the special election

In October, Erika Cokley, then a school board member running for reelection, announced she was pulling out of the race. But she apparently didn’t formally notify county election officials with paperwork and her name remained on the ballot.  

On Nov. 8, Cokley was top vote-getter in the District 6 race, garnering 34.4% of slightly more than 10,000 votes cast. Runyon received 30.9% of the votes.

After the election, Cokley formally notified the county election commission that she wouldn’t fill the slot. After she didn’t attend a swearing-in ceremony for new members, the seat was declared vacant, which led to the special election.

Meet the candidates

Runyon, a longtime educator who retired recently, currently is an insurance broker and financial adviser.  

“I’m running to finish the job at hand that we didn’t get done in November,” said Runyon, 52.  “The reality is that the desire for service still burns and the body of work that lies before us still exists. The opportunity to marry those two things is what drives this quest.”

He said his priorities are to improve the performance of underperforming schools and to “improve the supports we have in place for teachers, both in terms of compensation and non-compensation.”

Calhoun, 34, is a graduate of Morehouse College and currently directs the Race and Social Justice Initiative housed at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston.  

Current vice-chair of the District 10 constituent school board in West Ashley, Calhoun said in a 2020 profile by the college that he saw politics in his future.

When asked what he liked most about his job, he then said, “Being able to impact the community by connecting the past to the present.”

Griffith, who owns a choreography and cheerleading company, said she was 2019 rookie teacher of the year at St. John’s High School. She then went to teach 5th grade science at Meeting Street Academy, but ends her job there on Friday.

“There just needs to be a lot of change within the district and I believe in the education for these children and that they deserve the best,” said Griffith, 32, in a brief interview today.

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