1. McCain vs. Obama

Yes, we know this is “McCain country” and all that mess, but both the New York Times and NBC News have reported the race is tightening in South Carolina. We have every expectation McCain will win, but it will be interesting to see how well Obama does here in Charleston County. Area’s like downtown Charleston and Folly Beach proved to be more progressive than the rest of the state in the 2006 election and turnout from Charleston’s black community is expected to be dramatic.

2. Brown vs. Ketner

This race just keeps getting tighter and the Ketner campaign is seems more excited by the day. Just take a look at a message sent out by the campaign for last-minute contributions:

“A September poll summary from Lake Research states: “Democrat Linda Ketner is well positioned to defeat Republican Congressman Henry Brown.  Since June, Henry Brown has dropped ten points in the head-to-head contest. If she can remain competitive on the air she can win this race.”

Some unscientific polling on our part suggests that Brown’s negative response ads to Ketner’s negative campaign ads are making him look like the tool, not the other way around. All that aside, a Ketner win would still be a surprise, regardless of momentum.

3. Scarborough vs. Peterson Hutto

Any race that went to the victor two years ago by a scant 40 votes has got to be a race to watch. Scarborough only won the election after the election commission counted the absentee ballots. There are several factors playing into this race. Scarborough had a mountain of personal fumbles in the months leading up to the last election (and his previous challenger had nowhere near the resources Peterson Hutto has put toward highlighting these troubles). But two years may have dulled the influence those problems will have on voters in 2008. Several members of the gay community refused to offer their votes to either candidate last time, but seem to have bent toward Peterson Hutto this year. If it is as close as the last race, that may make a difference.

4. Condon vs. Peper

There have been so many elections since, that it’s hard to remember the turmoil over the special election that put Colleen Condon on the County Council in 2005. The first election went to her opponent, but Condon challenged the results because of problems at the polls. She easily won the second election and a challenge from her opponent was shot down in the courts. This has never looked like an easy win for Condon and Peper has been campaigning heavily. This is going to be a referendum on Condon’s job on the council. She’s been working hard and we’ll know tonight if she’s worked hard enough.

5. West Ashley School Board Seats

As we’ve noted before, there has been on ongoing dispute on the Charleston County School Board over the past few years. Arthur Ravenel, Ray Toler, and David Engelman (along with outgoing member Nancy Cook) have often been an arch conservative block on the board, though their influence has been scuttled by a inconsistent majority of three members and two swing votes.

The West Ashley race will likely determine the make-up of the next school board. The candidates for the two West Ashley seats include John Graham Altman, David Engelman, Chris Fraser and Ann Oplinger. A win by Altman and Engelman (along with Elizabeth Kandrac in the North Area race, could provide a majority for Ravenel’s “team.”

There are two factors that weigh on this race: Altman’s name recognition, most recently as a foot-in-mouth former state legislator, will both help and hurt him; and Engelman’s wife lost her reelection bid two years ago, though that race included the incentive of a political gaffe weeks before the election.