Voters Guide: Lexington Council race offers choice of experience or change June 7, 2014 

The most spirited County Council race in Lexington County offers a choice between a major player in regional economic development and challengers with anti-tax messages.

The contest among Councilman Bill Banning and challengers Billy Oswald and Ned Tolar will be settled at Tuesday’s Republican primary ballot. If no one gets more than 50 percent of votes cast, a run-off will take place June 24 between the top two choices.

It’s being waged in District 8, an area stretching from West Columbia through the Oak Grove area to the east side of Lexington and along part of the south shore of Lake Murray.

The contest is an unofficial referendum on a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax plan for roads and other improvements. It’s an idea headed for the Nov. 4 ballot with Banning’s backing and opposed by Oswald and Tolar.

But for some of their supporters, it’s a choice between experience and a fresh face.

• Mel Clarke considers the background that Banning has gained in 16 years as a councilman invaluable.

“He has a lot of insight of things going on,” Clarke said. “He’s been involved in helping all areas of our developing county.”

Banning met Clarke, the 81-year-old owner of a printing company, during a re-election campaign 10 years ago.

• Insurance agent Robert Rice feels Oswald is sympathetic to the impact that county decisions – particularly tax hikes – have on small businesses.

“With all the growth we’ve had, I don’t understand why we need more taxes,” he said.

Rice, 37, has known Oswald for two decades, working part-time for the candidate while a teenager.

• Tolar’s pledge to be a taxpayer watchdog resonates with retired railroad engineer Jerry Marcum, 53.

“Ned brings a good sharp eye to catching little details that could be detrimental,” Marcum said. “He’s good at sniffing out waste.”

The pair know each other from working together in GOP circles and neighborhood groups.

The other County Council race among Republicans on Tuesday’s primary ballot is low-key.

Insurance agent Larry Brigham calls himself eager to promote progress without raising any questions about the performance of incumbent Frank Townsend.

Their race is occurring in District 2, a largely rural area including Batesburg-Leesville, Gilbert, Summit, the Fairview Crossroads area and some of the south shore of Lake Murray.

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