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GOP hopefuls speak at meeting

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By Johnathan Ryan

The Lancaster County Republican Party offered a chance for the public to meet GOP candidates for local and state office on Tuesday night and, perhaps, give supporters a confidence boost.

"Our worst candidate will still be better than the Democrats' best candidate," said Winston Smith, chairman of the GOP in Lancaster County, during the meeting, held at the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster.

County Council candidates speak

Incumbent District 3 County Councilman Wesley Grier said Lancaster County is traditionally Democrat and that Republicans will need to unite for all races.

He noted challenges ahead, such as recruiting more industry for Lancaster County in the absence of Springs Global and how the proposed 1-cent sales tax referendum for November's ballot may factor into the future infrastructure plans for the county, such as a new courthouse.

Grier faces no GOP challenger, but will face Democrat Cotton Cole in the general election.

Indian Land resident Larry McCullough, a candidate for the District 1 County Council seat now held by Bryan Vaughn, who isn't seeking re-election, noted his experience as an executive with Wachovia Bank.

"I'm a problem solver and I have been throughout my career," McCullough said.

He said the county is growing by "leaps and bounds" and said with that comes challenges without easy answers. He wants managed growth and a master plan for Lancaster County.

"I'm interested in the things we'll need to address," he said.

McCullough's GOP challenger, Alan Patterson, didn't attend the meeting.

No Democrats are seeking the District 1 County Council seat.

House District 45 candidates

Bruce Miller, a candidate for the House District 45 seat, emphasized the importance of a "we" mentality instead of an "us" and "them" outlook in getting things accomplished in the political process. He said that mentality is important in moving the district into the future.

"We are in this together," said the Sun City Carolina Lakes resident.

Miller said he'd be a driven legislator, but would be willing to accept mistakes and pursue a correct course of action.

"Whatever you do, be passionate," he said. "Once I decide something is right. I will passionately pursue it."

His GOP opponent, Deborah Long, an optometrist who lives in Indian Land and has her office in Fort Mill, said she has the appropriate leadership skills for the job.

"I don't want to be a politician but it kind of comes with the territory," she said.

Long said she embraced leadership by rising to the top of the state optometry association. She said people encouraged her to run for the House seat.

"I can listen to people and take their concerns to heart," Long said.

The winner of the GOP contest will face either Donald Huffman, Tony Starnes or Fred Thomas - the three Democratic candidates for the seat - in the November election.

Senate candidate

Incumbent District 45 Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who is seeking the District 16 state Senate seat being vacated by Republican Greg Gregory, updated the crowd on issues facing the Legislature this session.

"My biggest priority right now is USCL," Mulvaney said.

He said he and other local legislators were able to reduce a proposed 24 percent cut in USCL's budget to 10 percent in the House budget bill.

Mulvaney said he remains concerned about the level of commitment to conservative values by Republican state lawmakers. He contends that a good number of Republican legislators vote in ways contrary to the party's conservative values.

"Right now, we have a Republican majority, but not a conservative majority," he said, later adding that luckily, many of those legislators are about to retire.

Mulvaney won't face a GOP challenger in the June 10 primary, but he will face Democrat Mandy Powers-Norell, attorney for the city of Lancaster, in the November general election.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or (803) 416-8416