Opponents of a workplace smoking ban said Tuesday that members of at least five organizations plan to target for defeat the five Lexington County Council members who voted for the ban.
After one of the longest and most divisive smoking-ban fights in South Carolina, County Council gave its ban final approval Tuesday by the slimmest of margins.
As it has most of the times it has voted, council split 5-4 on the ban, which takes effect Jan. 1 for all businesses in unincorporated Lexington County.
The five who voted for the ban are chairman Debbie Summers and council members Bill Banning, John Carrigg, Smokey Davis and Johnny Jeffcoat.
“John Carrigg is my representative, and I will do all I can to be sure he gets defeated the next time,” said Paul Seidelson, a member of ABATE.
ABATE of South Carolina bills itself as a group that works for individual rights. It has steadfastly fought helmet laws for motorcyclists.
Carrigg, council’s senior member, said: “I’m sorry he feels that way. This is not an issue of rights. It’s an issue of a clean environment.”
Along with ABATE, the organizations whose members pledged Tuesday to unseat those voting for the ban were the Lexington County chapter of the 912 Project and a sister group from Northeast Richland, the Campaign for Liberty and Pelion Good Neighbors.
Most are conservative organizations that draw support from former presidential candidate Ron Paul and television commentator Glenn Beck.
Jim Hanks, with one of the 912 Project groups, said some members have compiled maps of council districts and begun canvassing businesses in Banning’s district to build opposition to him.
“We’ve made phone calls,” Hanks said. “We’ve gotten his ethics report to see where his money comes from.”
Banning said he was unaware the ban opponents were working against him. Asked his response, he uncharacteristically said, “No comment.”
Talbert Black, state coordinator of Campaign for Liberty, said he, too, plans to work against the five.
A third opponent, Stephen Bull, a Lexington lawyer, stopped short of saying the groups have formally organized to defeat the council members.
Each of the three said he is a Lexington County resident.
Bull said the groups’ opposition was philosophical — that government should not be telling private businesses what to do.
“Freedom is indivisible,” Bull said.
He, along with Hanks, wore a black, three-cornered hat to Tuesday’s council meeting. They said the hats harked back to the Revolutionary War and the fight for individual freedoms.
“They ain’t seen the last of us,” Hanks said. “We will oppose the re-election of the individuals who are ramming this tyranny down our throats.”
The ban will allow smoking only on outdoor decks at bars and restaurants in the unincorporated parts of the county. But the county plans to enforce the ordinance only when it receives complaints from the public, Summers said.
Smoking-ban opponents on council made a last-ditch effort to delay the measure. Councilman Billy Derrick proposed an advisory referendum on the issue, which has drawn dozens of residents — mostly opponents — to public hearings during the debate, which has taken more than a year of the council’s time.
“I am just sorely disappointed we are taking away the rights of businesses,” Derrick said.
He, along with council members Todd Cullum, Bobby Keisler and Jim Kinard, have voted against the ban each time.
When Cullum asked Summers whether the ban would keep the owner of a one-person business from lighting up, the chairman said, yes, but the law would be enforced only if someone complained.
“I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion,” she said.
Summers has led the effort to adopt a ban since she became chairman in January. She declined to respond to being targeted for defeat.
At least 26 other local governments in South Carolina have adopted a ban since May 2006, when Sullivan’s Island led the move to outlaw smoking in workplaces.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.