1,469 to 1,468. One vote. That was the margin of victory by which City of Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela defeated then-incumbent Frank Willis for the Democratic primary on June 10, 2008.
Three years ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a ruling which proved that in the state of South Carolina, every vote does actually matter. In affirming the 12th Circuit Common Pleas ruling, the Court affirmed an order from the Honorable Michael G. Nettles which proclaimed:
The factors of this controversy and the applicable law will not allow this court to circumvent the will of the people. The voters have spoken ...One of our favorite quotes after Judge Nettles ruling at trial?
We thought that once we got into a court of law that the law would take over and we would be successful. That didn’t happen. -- Frank Willis
But, of course, the legal battle did not end there. Frank Willis appealed Judge Nettles decision to the South Carolina Supreme Court and on August 6, 2008 the Supremes told Frank, in the words of the Budweiser commercial, to "let it go, Louie."
A ton of work went into that legal fight and it would be a bit of an understatement to say getting that call while down at trial lawyers was memorable. One of our fondest memories of that whole saga was running into a comp seminar in Hilton Head, drink in one hand, phone in the other, flip-flopping down the aisle to grab the Mayor and pull him out so he could get the news.
Upon that ruling, Frank Willis was quoted as saying, "Once the court rules, that's it -- it's over."
Oh...would that it were, Frank...would that it were. We all know it was far from over at that point. It took three more months of campaigning against a write-in candidate who magically appeared during that election protest period, who spent $300,000 over that time (no...that's not a typo, folks. $300k in 3 months), before it was actually over.
But when it was over, the idea that every vote matters had survived. Wukela handedly won the general and was soon sworn in as Mayor.
Happy Anniversary to one-vote victories.
For a great archive of articles about that whole race, check out the news section at wukela.us.