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Sen. Sheheen brings 2010 governor's race to county

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By Chris Sardelli

Speaking to a small crowd at the Lancaster County Administration Building on Monday, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen laid out his plan for becoming governor.

Sheheen, whose District 27 includes precincts in the southern part of Lancaster County, made his first public appearance here since he announced his plans to run for governor in 2010.

Standing in County Council chambers, he spoke with several Lancaster and Indian Land residents, answering questions about the issues most important to his campaign.

One of the most important issues, he said, is fixing the state government.

“From our governor to our Legislature to our state agencies, they’re all dysfunctional,” Sheheen said. “We need to find ways to change this system to make our agencies more effective.”

He also mentioned supporting South Carolina’s education system, reducing the state’s high unemployment rate and focusing on infrastructure needs as issues he would focus on as governor.

Sheheen distanced himself from Gov. Mark Sanford, saying certain needs should be addressed immediately and not put on the back burner.

“If you don’t fix your roads today, you end up spending 10 times as much to fix them later,” he said. “We need to be fiscally responsible.”

After traveling throughout the state, Sheheen realized that people are concerned about state government.

“People aren’t happy. We’ve got a chance to change the state and if we don’t take advantage of it, we’ll be in trouble,” Sheheen said. “I believe government plays a large role in bettering people’s lives.”

Lancaster resident Keith Grey listened intently from the audience, hoping to hear Sheheen’s ideas for bringing the state out of its economic decline.

Grey, who calls himself “socially liberal but fiscally conservative,” said he is unhappy with Sanford and wanted to hear Sheheen’s plan for fixing the state’s education and unemployment problems.

“We have to give our kids the chance to help themselves,” Grey said. “If there is no education, they can’t learn skills and can’t go on to be police or teachers.”

Grey was excited to hear that Sheheen intends to focus on education if elected.

He said solving the state’s high unemployment problem starts with properly educating the population. And that, he said, means establishing the proper infrastructure for the state’s school system.

“I will pay taxes for this stuff,” Grey said. “I worry that my kids won’t be able to provide for my grandkids.”

Sheheen and Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod have each announced they will run for Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination next year.

State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and House Minority Leader Harry Ott of Calhoun are also considering a run for the Democratic Party nomination.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, state Attorney General Henry McMaster,  Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Furman political scientist Brent Nelsenare expected to run.

Incumbent Republican Sanford cannot run again. He is now winding down his second term.

Sheheen, an attorney from Camden, has served as the District 27 senator since 2004. He served in the state House for three years before being elected to the Senate.

The last Democrat to occupy the Governor’s Mansion was Lancaster native Jim Hodges, who won the post in 1998.

After serving one term, Hodges was defeated by Sanford in the 2002 election.

The 2010 governor’s race is just beginning, with candidates beginning fundraising and making their first stump appearances in communities around the state.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416