The Student Voice of Coastal Carolina University



Debate divides Conway

CCU hosts Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Ken Richardson for political debate
keller goldstein
Audience members stand to welcome the candidates at the debate on Oct. 25

Coastal Carolina University held a mayoral debate between candidates Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Ken Richardson in the Johnson Auditorium Oct. 25 in anticipation for the City of Conway’s general election on Nov. 7. 


Current Conway Mayor Blain-Bellamy and her opponent, former Horry County Board of Education Chairman Richardson, stood alongside each other as they faced questions from moderator Drew Kurlowski, an associate professor of political science at CCU. 


After winning a coin toss prior to the event, Blain-Bellamy opted to let Richardson speak first, which would then give her the final word at the conclusion of the debate. Both candidates were given three minutes each to introduce themselves and make opening statements. 


Lee Belcher, a commercial banker at First Citizens, said he attended the debate in order to hear both sides and stay informed on what is happening in the city and his community.  


“I think it’s important for all citizens to understand what their challenges are, what the future holds, and what each one of them plans to do to really help us continue to grow, Belcher said, “but at a pace we need to continue to thrive.” 


Richardson kicked off the night by thanking the University for hosting the event, as well as the Conway Chamber of Commerce for making it happen.  


“You know I really feel like I’m home tonight, because my whole life has been all within five minutes of here,” Richardson said. “I thought that I was going to be retired when I finished up my four years as chair of the Board of Education but, things happen, things come up, different things change in life.” 


Blain-Bellamy began her introduction by acknowledging the Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy who also played a role in setting up the event. She also went on to describe the change that Conway has endured over the years, and how she plans to accommodate and plan for more changes in the town and its economy.  


“Conway’s economy was based on tobacco, turpentine and timber. There was a much simpler life, people grew their own crops, they made their own clothes, they made a life of what was available,” she said. “Today, we enjoy so many pieces of technology that made life easier and smoother for us all. Today, Conway is a thriving, mini metropolitan area.”  


Blain-Bellamy gave a shout out to the young leaders in attendance, which she personally invited to come out and attend. Among those invited were Conway High School senior Rachell Hernandez, who was recently elected junior mayor of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.   


Hernandez said she wanted to attend in order to get both sides since she had never met Richardson, as well as support Blain-Bellamy for what she has done for the youth.  


“It’s not just here, it’s kind of everywhere. You can see that the youth is not very involved within voting, and I would really like to see the youth get its input out there because I feel like we’re not represented enough. By voting, that’s definitely a way to get our input out there,” Hernandez said. 


The topics for the night included residential development, high poverty rates, support for local businesses, economics and job market, city collaborations with CCU and Horry Georgetown Technical College (HGTC), recreation and tourism, nightlife, county transparency and LGBTQ+ rights.  


The final topic, regarding juggling differences between members of the community and ensuring mutual respect for diversity, had the largest amount of disagreement amongst the candidates.  

Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and opposing party member Ken Richardson answer questions at the debate. (keller godstein)

“Over the summer there was some tension in Conway over recognizing the rights of the LGBTQ community, while respecting also the sincerely held religious beliefs of some of our residents,” Kurlowski asked. “When conflicts like this arise, what do you see as the role of the mayor in navigating these conflicts?”  


This question was handed off first to Richardson. He began by stating that the City Council should never be blindsided by proclamations ordered by the mayor, calling out Blain-Bellamy for past decisions made. 


He then went on to talk about how the topics in schools have changed since his grandchildren were attending and why this doesn’t sit right with him.  


“When I would sit around the table with my grandchildren, we were talking about Transformers. Now, I don’t know if you know what Transformers are, but they’re little cars that turn into robots,” Richardson said. “The problem we got today is kids are sitting around talking about transgenders. And I’m gonna tell you, I fought for four years to keep this out of our schools.”  


Before his time to respond expired, he ended by saying he has family friends that are gay and does not have anything against them.  


Blain-Bellamy responded and said the council has never been blindsided and is always aware. She said her proclamation states people should love and respect everybody, as she learned at home, in church and “everywhere.” 


“I come from a place that says we are to love everybody. As mayor of the city of Conway, I represent everybody. I take them as they are. I ask that they take me as I am,” she said. “It’s a sad time when just because I disagree with somebody, that I have to call them names, that I need to call them out, that I lose respect for that person. Now how to merge that? I don’t know.”  


Although Blain-Bellamy and Richardson did not see eye-to-eye for every question or response, including the final one, they proceeded to shake each other’s hands and thank those who came out to support them. Which, with a packed room and various media outlets in attendance, was no small number. 


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Chanticleer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *