The race for the state Senate seat held by outgoing Democratic Sen. Joel Lourie is heating up.
Richland 2 School Board member Susan Brill, a Republican, is running against Democratic state Rep. Mia McLeod in District 22, thought safely Democratic.
However, a poll, commissioned by the GOP Senate Caucus, found the two candidates are within 3 percentage points of each other in the district, made up of Northeast Richland and part of Kershaw County.
“It would be a big pickup if Susan Brill can win because there aren’t a whole lot of vacant seats that are competitive,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, adding, “This is one of those that’s competitive.”
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According to Massey, 300 likely general election voters were polled in the district, where 43,956 votes were cast in 2004, the last time there was a competitive race for the Senate seat.
▪ 43.33 percent of those polled favored Democrat McLeod
▪ 40.33 percent favored Republican Brill
▪ 16.33 percent were undecided
Of those polled, 56 percent were white and 38 percent were African-American, according to Massey. The remaining 6 percent were another ethnicity. In addition, 58 percent were female and 42 percent male. The poll’s margin of error was 5.5 percentage points.
Evidence the race is tight also cropped up in an ethics complaint filed against Brill, alleging she used the Richland 2 phone system to announce her Senate candidacy on Aug. 14. The complaint was filed by Myra Cunningham, a Richland 2 parent.
“I ... thought that was inappropriate,” Cunningham said. “She’s calling the parents welcoming them and looking forward to another school year, then announcing she was running for the Senate.”
Brill says the recorded message was paid for by her campaign, not the school system.
“I would never do anything like that,” Brill said, adding, “I’ve been on school board for 10 years and my ethics are above reproach.”
Brill sent The Buzz a copy of a letter from her campaign firm saying she paid for automated political messages to voters in Richland 1 and Richland 2 between Aug. 12 and Aug. 16.
Richland 2 spokeswoman Libby Roof sent The Buzz a copy of all phone calls made through the district’s mass-notification system on Aug. 14. “The report includes the topics of the messages and the senders, none of which reference Ms. Brill,” Roof said.
The Buzz checked the list and Brill is not listed in the messages, including “Back-to-School Bash & Annual Student Updates” or the “Fresh Start and New Parent Breakfast” or the “Night Before 1st Day.”
“We’re extremely thankful that Ms. Brill is not using her office and taxpayer-funded resources to campaign,” said McLeod campaign manager Trav Robertson.
Massey said the complaint is evidence of a competitive race.
“It’s not unusual at all to see an ethics complaint – even a bogus ethics complaint – in a close race,” the Senate GOP leader said.
Staff writer Jamie Self contributed.