Columbia, SC — Amidst the chaos of the 2012 Richland County elections, there was one bright spot that should not be overlooked. House District 75 candidates Kirkman Finlay and Joe McCulloch both had traits that could be exploited to turn the race into a spectacle of political theater to entertain the casual observer but not inform the voters, but both candidates decided to do something else: run to serve.
Like all of us, both Mr. McCulloch and Mr. Finlay have faults. They will disagree with our views; they might even get a fact mixed up once in a while. And their campaigns were not perfect. The Democrats tried to find a loophole to victory by protesting the vote count without real legal basis, and someone sent out a mailer with some things about McCulloch that Finlay might believe, but would not publicly say.
But each man ran a campaign that addressed issues and ideas instead of attacking personalities. Both ran a race to serve in the Legislature, and neither stooped low to head butt the other. The tone and substance of this race were something we used to count on from well-meaning people. Unfortunately we now take it for granted that such races just don’t happen much anymore.
When I knocked on doors in the spring seeking the GOP nomination in House 75, I heard enough negative inferences about these two men to wonder, “What could people say about me?” Anyone who has seriously thought about running for office knows the feeling. Tearing down is easy; building up anything lasting is hard and tedious.
In my campaign, I tried to convey what was in my heart: “It would be an honor to serve.” Some version of that also popped up in the campaign verbiage of Rep. Finlay and Mr. McCulloch.
Along with all the lessons of 2012 about how not to run a fair and free election in Richland County, we can all learn from Kirkman Finlay and Joe McCulloch about the tone of a well-meaning candidate. These imperfect, well-meaning people entered the arena, as Teddy Roosevelt called it, ran in a competitive race and, despite the lure of “the prize,” acted like they truly believed “It would be an honor to serve.” I wish our country could be so lucky everywhere.