June 10, 2012

8 races to watch

The road to South Carolina’s primaries has been bumpy, to say the least.

The road to South Carolina’s primaries has been bumpy, to say the least — with nearly 200 candidates, possibly more, dropped from ballots, a flurry of Supreme Court appeals, and much confusion among state residents. With the primaries just two days away, we’ll soon see whether there still enough interest to get voters to the polls.

Lexington County coroner

The race: Two veteran coroners are in a heated Republican contest. Incumbent Harry Harman first was elected in 1976 and challenger Frank Barron was Richland County’s coroner for 22 years before losing to Gary Watts, the current coroner.

Key issue: Barron says Harman’s time has passed. Barron experienced his own controversial tenure as a longtime coroner.

Key difference: Barron wants to oust key members of Harman’s staff and has pledged to save lives; Harman would continue improving his professional operation.

What’s next: The winner faces no Democratic opposition in November.

Senate 18

The race: Sen. Ronnie Cromer is seeking re-election — although to a very different district. The senator’s Newberry district was redrawn so it now includes a majority of Lexington County residents. That has prompted a slew of GOP challengers, including Rich Bolen, who resigned as Lexington County GOP chairman to run for the office. Former WIS-TV anchor Kara Gormley-Meador filed for the seat after realizing she could not run against Sen. Jake Knotts because she does not live in his district. Retired engineer Alan Hunter, who now repairs antique boats, is also running.

Key issue: Only one of Lexington County’s Republican senators actually lives there — something that doesn’t sit well with county GOP officials. Cromer has been introducing himself to a lot of potential new voters and working to convince them that while he lives in Newberry County, he can still represent them effectively.

Key difference: Bolen and Meador have criticized Cromer’s voting record in the Senate, arguing he is not fiscally conservative. Cromer says he is proud of his record.

What’s next: The winner will not face Democratic opposition in the November general election.

Richland County Council


The race: Serving on the council for the second time, Councilwoman Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy is seeking a second consecutive term representing District 7. She’s challenged by fellow Democrat Torrey Rush, a political newcomer who’s touting his seven years as a member of the county’s zoning board of appeals.

Key issue: Construction of a $21 million sports tournament park in Northeast Richland, paid for with restaurant tax revenues

Key difference: Kennedy, noting the park was started before she got on the council, said she’ll work to make the project a success because bailing out now would waste money. But Rush said he’s concerned about pouring money into the project because County Council hasn’t figured out how to pay for operating and maintaining the park once it’s built.

What’s next: The winner faces Republican Celestine Parker in November.

House 75

The race: Former Columbia City Councilman Kirkman Finlay is returning to politics to try to win a state House seat. He faces fellow Republican Jim Corbett, a freelance sports broadcaster and partner at the law firm Holler, Corbett, Ormond, Plante & Dunn. Finlay and Corbett are trying to replace retiring Rep. Jim Harrison, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Key issue: Finlay is a strong believer in cutting government spending, something he specialized in on Columbia City Council. He says state government must do the same if it wants to create jobs. Corbett says he supports zeroing out all state agency budgets once every six years, making them start from scratch.

Key difference: Not much. Both talk about cutting government spending and creating jobs.

What’s next: The winner will face Democrat Joe McCullough, a Columbia attorney, in November.

Senate 20

The race: Two Democrats — Robert Rikard, an attorney, and Norman Jackson, a Richland County Council member — are hoping to unseat Senate president pro tem John Courson, R-Richland, one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate. The district, which includes parts of north and south Columbia, St. Andrews/Irmo area and Dutch Square, is trending increasingly blue, giving Democrats a chance to win in November. But Courson, viewed as a moderate and a friend to public education, will be a tough challenger.

Key issue: Rikard and Jackson are stressing the need for change at the State House. They also want to improve public schools and create jobs.

Key difference: Rikard wants to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, while Jackson stresses protecting state workers’ pay and benefits.

What’s next: The winner faces Courson in November.

House 39

The race: Rep. Marion Frye is retiring, and two GOP candidates are vying to replace him: Jim Wiszowaty, the mayor of Batesburg-Leesville; and Ralph Kennedy, a Lexington 3 school board member.

Key issue: Wiszowaty has promised that, if elected, he will not take a salary, will serve no more than four terms and will not join the General Assembly retirement system. Kennedy says he’s running because he wants to serve the people.

Key difference: Seems to be a mostly friendly race, befitting a small town. Wiszowaty, after all, was once Kennedy’s landlord.

What’s next: The winner faces no Democratic opposition in November.

House 41

The race: Democratic Rep. Boyd Brown is not seeking re-election, creating a crowded field of Democrats hoping to represent this rural Midlands district that covers all of Fairfield County and parts of Chester and Richland counties. The candidates are Paul Dove, a retired Francis Marion University library dean and professor; Mary Gail Douglas, a former director of the Fairfield County Council on Aging; Annie McDaniel, former chairwoman of the Fairfield County School Board; Palmer Nicholson, a small business owner; and Eugene Sutton, a pastor and radio host.

Key issue: Training opportunities for the area’s workforce, attracting new businesses and improving public education

Key difference: Candidates are mainly on the same page, looking to help their rural community and its schools.

What’s next: The winner will face Republican William Gray in November.

Lexington County treasurer

The race: Incumbent Jim Eckstrom faces a challenge from fellow Republican and County Council chairman Bill Banning.

Key issue: Improving service to taxpayers without increasing significantly the cost of doing that

Key difference: Banning wants the office to analyze the economic impact of decisions of county leaders, a step that Eckstrom says will add to the cost of operation. Banning says it won’t.

What’s next: The winner faces no Democratic opposition in November.

Contributing: Staff writers Adam Beam, Tim Flach, Dawn Hinshaw, Noelle Phillips, Gina Smith

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