The usually low-key contest for Lexington County treasurer turned high-profile Thursday when County Council chairman Bill Banning launched a challenge to incumbent Jim Eckstrom.
It’s a contest pitting two Republicans with different styles at the June 12 primary election.
Banning, in his 14th year as a councilman from West Columbia, is known for helping bring in thousands of jobs by wooing Amazon, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Michelin and other major companies.
Eckstrom, treasurer for 41/2 years, is a member of a locally prominent family with ties to the GOP’s Tea Party wing.
Banning is stressing “better service, better security and better cooperation with other elected officials.”
In part, that’s a reference to the embezzlement three years ago of what authorities say is less than $5,000 by a former clerk in the treasurer’s office.
Eckstrom takes credit for discovering the alleged theft and added cameras, safes and other features as a deterrent.
Banning hopes to benefit from resentment that county taxes are sent to a regional processing center in North Carolina, a step Eckstrom’s predecessor took for better investment earnings.
Eckstrom wants to return that job locally but county leaders, including council members, haven’t signed off on his plan.
Banning may get heat from conservative groups upset that many jobs brought in required tax breaks and other incentives they oppose.
Eckstrom says a staff reduction from 23 to 18 shows he is doing more with less as many families are in a struggling economy.
“The only issue in this race is a division in county government between those who want higher taxes and budgets versus those who favor less spending and lower taxes,” he said.