Democrats in Richland and Sumter counties will head to the polls again next next Tuesday to nominate a replacement for late state Rep. Joe Neal.
The House District 70 race is between Wendy Brawley, a 58-year-old magazine publisher and former member of the Richland 1 school board, and Heath Hill, a 66-year-old Lower Richland farmer and board member of the Tri-County Electric Cooperative.
Brawley finished first in the Democratic primary last week, winning 40 percent of the votes cast to finish 16 points ahead of Hill.
She attributes that result to her history of community activism.
“I’ve been working in the community a long time,” Brawley said. “People appreciate that, they know that and they know I’ll be the one to represent their needs.”
Hill finished less than 500 votes behind Brawley in the first round of the low-turnout special election. He says he will have to work harder to close that gap.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Hill said. “I’ve got to explain my message.”
If elected, Hill says he wants to focus on bringing jobs to the district, which includes Lower Richland and the western part of Sumter County, and on the rural community’s infrastructure needs, including for improved water and sewer service.
Hill also said he hopes the fact that he is a lifelong Lower Richland resident connects with most of the district’s voters.
“I’m white, running in a mainly black area,” he said. “But I can’t change my color.”
For her part, Brawley, who is African American, is concerned about getting voters to the polls again on may 16, adding many aren’t aware a runoff is happening.
“In Richland County, we were the only race on the ballot” last week, Brawley said. “At least in Sumter they had the 5th District (congressional race), which has been more in the news and had more money spent.”
If elected, Brawley says she wants to focus on improving education and health-care access, as well as increasing South Carolina’s minimum wage. “We’ve got too many people living in poverty from generation to generation.”
The House 70 A vacancy was created when Neal, who had been in the House since 1992, died last January.
During the campaign, Brawley received the endorsement of Neal’s family, as well as the S.C. Progressive Network and the S.C. Progressive Legislative Caucus, co-founded by Neal.
The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face Republican Bill Strickland in a June 20 special election.
SC HOUSE 70
What: A Democratic runoff for the S.C. House seat will be held Tuesday, May 16
When: Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: The district includes Lower Richland and western Sumter County
Who: Any registered voter is eligible to cast a ballot if they voted in the May 2 Democratic primary or didn’t vote May 2