Sumter County Democratic Committee Discusses Chairman Waddell’s Attempt to Influence Party Nominee for the Board of Elections

Published 4:57 pm Monday, January 8, 2024

The Sumter County Democratic Committee held a meeting on January 6th. The meeting was called after the chair, Blue Argo, sent an email dated December 29th to members concerning the upcoming January 9th appointment to the Board of Elections by the County Commissioners.

“The Board of Commissioners (BOC) initially requested only one name, asking if the Sumter Democratic Committee wished to reappoint Ms. Rhonda Reddick, the incumbent, to a second term, and the Executive Committee voted affirmatively. Several weeks after Ms. Reddick’s name had been submitted and after the Republicans had replaced Mr. Taylor, their incumbent, with Mr. Howard, The Board of Commissioners requested a second name from us, citing the 2019 resolution.”

Argo’s email also mentioned that one candidate, Kat Wade, had been disqualified by the Committee.

“Unfortunately, Ms. Wade’s nomination has been disqualified by the Executive Committee of the Sumter Democratic Committee (SDC), based on the appearance of ethical impropriety.
Ms. Wade nominated herself for the Democratic seat on the BOER after being gently encouraged to do so by Mark Waddell, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, the body that decides which candidate gets the appointment. Although Mr. Waddell is Ms. Wade’s neighbor and friend, he is also a Republican and in a position of power. As such, it is unethical for him or anyone else serving on the Board of Commissioners to attempt to influence Democratic Committee business in any way or to cherry-pick our lone representative on the BOER. Ms. Wade may have committed the impropriety unintentionally, but Chairman Waddell, as an elected official, should have known better.”

Argo called the meeting to order on the second floor of the Lake Blackshear Library and started the discussion about the upcoming vote on Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners for the new Board of Elections Member.

The party has two nominations, current Board of Elections member, Rhonda Reddick, who was eligible for a second term, and local NAACP president Eugene Edge.

Argo stated the Board of Commissioners reserved the ability to reject either.

Will Davis, district chairmen of the democratic party, was in attendance. Davis stated that for Waddell, a sitting commissioner, to knowingly reach out and recruit a candidate was improper.
A discussion followed about whether a choice by the Commissioners for the democratic pick could be contested, with Davis noting this could only be done after a decision was made.

When asked about the conversation he had with Kat Wade, Chairman Mark Waddell provided a statement.

“I had a conversation with my neighbor and asked her if she had ever considered being a member of the BOE. The Board made a request to the Democratic Party for at least 2 names per the resolution. The Democratic Party only submitted one name. The resolution calls for at least two. And I consider it unfair that Miss Wade was disqualified solely because of a conversation.”

When questioned, he stated that “The Board did not ask me to find a second name.”

Wade provided a statement:
“On December 19th, Mark Waddell called to ask me if I knew that there was a vacancy on the BOER and would I be interested in serving. At the time I knew nothing of the requirements and time commitment, so he outlined the duties, responsibilities, general meeting schedule, and duties on election days.

I told him that I would think about it and get back to him. I consulted a few people, including the Chair of the Sumter County Democrats, Ms. Blue Argo, to see what they thought about Commissioner Mark Waddell’s suggestion. Given my availability and professional experience in ethics and compliance, I thought I would be a good board member. Later that day I submitted my name for nomination to the Sumter County Democrats and was subsequently selected for nomination on the afternoon of Dec 22nd. However, on Dec 23rd I was informed by phone that the Sumter County Democrat Executive Committee decided that I had been disqualified due to ‘the appearance of impropriety’.

I do not accept the Sumter Democrats Executive Committee’s vote to disqualify me based on their assumptions, as there is no proof of any bias or bad intent. Thus, I am submitting my name for consideration directly to the Board of Commissioners. Should the Commissioners wish to consider me for the Democratic seat or a non-partisan seat at this time or in the future, I am willing to serve my community.”