5 seek Lexington County Council post

tflach@thestate.comOctober 30, 2012 

— Each is seeking to be the choice of voters to replace retiring incumbent Smokey Davis of Lexington, who is not recommending anyone as his successor.

It’s a showdown delayed from the June 12 Republican primary.

Four candidates - Scott Adams, Wes Howard, Darrell Hudson and Anthony Keisler - were among 250 candidate statewide disqualified then for failure to report personal finances properly.

They quickly gathered hundreds of voter signatures to be restored to the ballot this fall against Kent Collins, who won the GOP nomination by default.

All four call themselves petition Republicans. And county GOP leaders call all five candidates acceptable.

It’s a race mostly on personal appeal than on divergent outlooks.

All the candidates express similar views on steady improvement of law enforcement, fire protection and emergency medical care while keeping taxes low.

It’s a message that Davis said plays well in District 3, which is centered in the town of Lexington and surrounding area that includes a slice of the south shore of Lake Murray.

The area is moderately progressive socially while conservative fiscally, Davis said. "They are willing to pay for quality and security as well as education."

Each petition candidate acknowledges it’s a challenge to capture the attention of voters who tend to cast straight-Republican ballots.

There is no Democrat running for the seat, so the winner among the five will claim a post with a four-year term.

Here’s a snapshot of each campaign:

Adams would be a shoo-in if fund-raising were a promise of success.

He’s well ahead of other challengers in taking in nearly $24,000 so far, including $7,300 from himself. His donors reflect ties to the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce and his role in helping bring an Amazon distribution center to the Midlands.

When it comes to taxpayers dollars, Adams would focus on major expenses instead of small items. "A lot of people get caught up on $10, when it’s $100 that needs to be addressed."

Adams, a telecommunications cable company executive, is pledging to donate the post’s yearly salary of $17,347 to charities and forego taxpayer-paid health insurance.

Collins is promoting himself as experienced in getting things done due to his background as a former Lexington County prosecutor.

"As a lawyer, I fight for people on a daily basis," he said.

The challenges of operating a small law firm also make him sensitive to the impact of county decisions on local businesses, he said.

Collins signed the petitions of some of his challengers as a goodwill gesture, saying voters deserve a choice that shouldn’t be frustrated by technicalities.

Hudson, a vehicle dealer and member of a family well-known for its barbecue, is running as everyone’s neighbor.

His website is full of pictures of family and friends, with less emphasis on politics. "It’s about the local community," he said. "It’s about helping people."

Hudson promises to ask lots of questions as spending decisions are made, but stops short of pinpointing any in place as excessive.

He’s done well in fundraising, pulling in just over $15,100, including nearly $1,500 from himself.

Howard, a Tea Party favorite, is running as an outsider with an insider’s experience who is eager to tackle what he considers spending practices that prevent taxes from being cut.

County leaders treat taxpayers as "a bottomless piggy bank," he said, citing examples such as pens, lunch bags, T-shirts, hats and meals given as staff morale boosters.

"It’s becoming an accepted practice, but that doesn’t make it right," said Howard, a county paramedic who said he will give up that job if elected.

Howard also is critical of larger decisions, such as approval of a package of improvements at Riverbanks Zoo that he said are nice but unnecessary. The zoo tax hike is estimated to add $1.60 yearly to the property tax bill of a $100,000 home.

Keisler portrays himself as someone whose longtime family roots in the area and involvement in local events give him a better sense of problems and acceptable solutions.

"You’ve got to be part of the community to be able to serve the community," he said. "I’m used to getting up every morning, put my pants on and go to work."

His only promise is to keep the county "fiscally sound."

Keisler, a bar owner, was upset with county approval of workplace smoking limits that started in 2010 but now says that is "a dead issue."

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