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With the largest field of candidates for any local race this year, the race for S.C. House District 45 seat offers voters both diverse ideas and personalities.
But on June 10, both the Democratic and Republican parties will narrow the field to just their nominees with an open primary.
Current S.C. House District 45 Representative Mick Mulvaney, a Republican, will not be seeking re-election since he's vying for the S.C. Senate District 16 seat with Democrat Mandy Powers-Norrell.
The Democratic candidates for the nomination will be Springs Industries retiree and former small business owner Donald Huffman, Kershaw Town Administrator Tony Starnes and Lancaster County Councilman Fred Thomas, all Lancaster County residents.
Starnes said he's running to bring a more "common sense voice to Columbia." He said one example of a lack of common sense on the part of the General Assembly was its decision to cut the University of South Carolina at Lancaster's funding this year.
Starnes said USCL is growing, but one current legislator indicated USCL just needs to stop growing to fix the problem.
Starnes said he has worked within budgets for years as a Springs Industries employee and as Kershaw town administrator. If elected, Starnes said he will focus on bringing jobs to the area by making sure the S.C. Department of Commerce does all it can to offer incentives to companies looking to locate in "distressed" counties.
The state could help distressed counties like Lancaster County build more spec buildings and offer more attractive incentive packages to locate businesses here, Starnes said.
Thomas said a problem he intends to reverse if elected is the General Assembly's erosion of the Home Rule Act, which gives local governments certain freedoms to govern themselves.
Thomas said different districts have different needs, especially House District 45, and local government should be able to address those needs as local officials and residents see fit.
"For the state to say we can't do that is simply unacceptable," Thomas said.
He touts his experience on Lancaster County Council, saying he knows "how local government works."
"So many of our legislators down there simply don't know how local government works and that doesn't paint a pretty picture," he said.
Thomas said he also wants to bring new industry to the local area and work toward high-quality educational opportunities.
Huffman said his top priority if elected would be to eliminate the "hundreds of millions of dollars" in wasteful spending by the General Assembly. He laments expensive studies that yield no tangible benefits and uncontrolled pork-barrel spending.
Huffman said that wasted money could be spent to improve education by hiring more quality teachers, to provide better health care and to help small businesses.
"I want to let them know how to spend that money," he said.
South Carolina is a great place to have a small business, but if the state offered more tax incentives and easier access to government business loans, they'd do a lot better, Huffman said.
Above all, he is tired of seeing the state ranked worst or second worst in many areas nationally.
"South Carolina can do a lot better than that," Huffman said.
Both Republican candidates – Fort Mill optometrist Dr. Deborah Long and Sun City resident and real estate broker Bruce Miller – are looking to preserve the GOP's majority in the General Assembly.
Miller, who's spent many years working on GOP campaigns and was once a precinct chairman in Orange County, Calif., said he knows the channels of power and the right people to work with to get things accomplished.
"I represent District 45. I do not represent the state," he said. "What the people of District 45 want is what I'll represent."
Miller said the district needs new jobs and he will use his political know-how and business contacts to accomplish that.
"I have business contacts all over the country and will go beyond our borders to look for new jobs to bring here," Miller said.
He applauded Mulvaney for his trip with Gov. Mark Sanford to the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, last year to promote South Carolina's qualities as a pro-business state.
People must unite and forget whether they live in the northern or southern part of Lancaster County, or are natives or newcomers, if they want the county to prosper, Miller said.
Long, who lives in Indian Land, said that after many years of asking why no one was taking care of the problems important to her, she realized that maybe the person needed for the job was herself.
That's why she's running for the District 45 seat.
"At some point, you just end up realizing that the person for the job is you," said Long, who has spent many years involved in civic and professional organizations.
Long said she'd like to go to Columbia and reduce wasteful spending, limit government growth and streamline bureaucracy.
Finding new jobs for the district is important, and high-quality education and reforming worker's compensation insurance to reduce costs to employers will attract new employers to the state, Long said.
"We should be able to accomplish those things with no new taxes," she said.
Affordable health care is also important, which can be partially achieved by tort reform, Long said.
She questions increasing the cigarette tax to better fund Medicaid. Her concern is how funding for Medicaid would remain consistent once cigarette consumption falls – a goal of the tax.
Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 416-8416