Mayoral race spotlight: Cayce’s Partin faces challenge from school board member

Posted 9/13/23

The four largest municipalities in Lexington County — excluding Columbia, which mostly sits in another county — have mayoral seats on the ballot Nov. 7.

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Mayoral race spotlight: Cayce’s Partin faces challenge from school board member


The four largest municipalities in Lexington County — excluding Columbia, which mostly sits in another county — have mayoral seats on the ballot Nov. 7.

Lexington will for sure have a new mayor after the election, as Steve MacDougall decided not to seek another term. Long-serving Mayor Pro-Tem Hazel Livingston is running unopposed to become the top elected official for the town of about 24,000.

The races in the three other largest municipalities — West Columbia (which has a population in excess of 17,000), Cayce (nearly 14,000) and Irmo (nearly 12,000) — each find the incumbent fending off a challenger.

In the coming weeks, the Chronicle will take closer looks at these races, starting with the contentious contest in Cayce.

Elise Partin, who has served as Cayce’s mayor since 2008, faces off with Abbott "Tre" Bray, who has served on the board for Lexington County School District 2, which covers Cayce along with West Columbia and Springdale, since 2020.

Among the issues that Bray is pushing in his campaign is the way Partin handles her office, arguing that Cayce has increasingly functioned as a strong-mayor form of government under her leadership, even though that’s not how the municipality is supposed to be set up.

“Part of it is just length of service, but we have definitely shifted to what I would call a strong-mayor model, where most things go through the mayor,” Bray told the Chronicle. “There’s daily calls between mayor and city manager. It’s hard for things not to become personal and to kind of build allegiances and competitors. Fundamentally, that’s not how we’re set up.”

Partin rejected the claim that Cayce’s government isn’t functioning as it should, saying that bringing in a variety of voices to find the best ideas to move the city forward continues to be her emphasis as mayor.

“I've just always just put myself up to serve,” she said. “I've never run against anybody. I've only run to serve, and I don't like a lot of the half the hate and lies that I see that's out there, particularly as it attacks our staff and our city. But I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and keep taking care of our city.”

Outside of her talk with the Chronicle, Partin is focusing on her accomplishments and not rushing to defend herself against the claims Bray is making about her performance as mayor. One initiative she’s claiming as a victory is the River Arts District along State Street near its intersection with Frink Street, which now features businesses such as a coffee shop, a distillery and multiple shopping and gallery options and ties into the city’s riverwalk.

Bray is taking direct aim at that project, arguing that the industrial area along Frink Street isn’t the appropriate place for the city to emphasize such quality-of-life-boosting development.

“Our river district has got some very positives, but I also feel at some point we’re trying to shove the square peg in the round hole,” he said.

Partin said it was and remains important to revitalize the area that was the city’s original center.

“That was where citizens remember walking to the movie theater. It's where the original city hall was. And that part of our city was really languishing,” she said. 

“And just like, you know, if our hearts aren't functioning well, the rest of the body isn't healthy. So we really started focusing on that area because it is the original heart of our city, but also because of what else is there,” she added, bringing up the connectivity with the riverwalk.

Bray is also making public safety an issue, quoting statistics from a 2023 Cayce budget presentation that “calls for service in Cayce have increased by 9%, traffic stops have increased by 22% and arrests have increased by a staggering 43%.”

Partin said these numbers are being taken out of context — particularly as it applies to nation- and statewide crime increases — quoting statistics she said came from Cayce's police chief showing that from 2021 to 2022 there was a 55.6% reduction in sexual assaults, a 33.3% reduction in robberies, a 9.6% reduction in burglaries, a 16.4% reduction in larcenies, an 8.5% reduction in motor vehicle thefts, and 2019-2023 decreases of 20% in aggravated assaults, 44% in burglaries, 50% in thefts and 41.9% in motor vehicle thefts.

Bray is putting a particular focus on the safety of the Cayce Riverwalk, saying there has been an increase in homeless individuals congregating there when it gets dark and that people such as his wife no longer feel safe there when the sun starts to set. 

Partin rejected this claim as blatantly false, noting that she rides her bike down the riverwalk frequently in the early morning and in the evening and always feels safe.

cayce mayor elise partin, Abbott "Tre" Bray, lexington county school district 2, november election, lexington county government


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