Politics & Government

Another candidate enters rapidly growing field in Columbia SC Senate race

Benjamin Dunn
Benjamin Dunn

Ballentine attorney Benjamin Dunn is the third Republican to enter the race for a vacant Columbia Senate seat.

Dunn filed Friday to run for the District 20 Senate seat vacated by former Sen. John Courson.

An attorney with the Ormond Dunn law firm, Dunn is the third Republican to file for the seat. He joins lawyer Christian Stegmaier of Chapin and insurance agent Bill Turbeville of Columbia in a Republican primary for the seat on Aug. 14.

Dunn says he plans to focus on reducing the tax burden and making state government as efficient as it can be.

"We have all these weird boards and commissions, the highway commission, that we've got to streamline or, in most cases, can be done away with," Dunn said, arguing the boards allow legislators to exercise undo influence over government agencies.

Dunn also wants to see education reforms, including school district consolidation, and having the governor appoint the state education superintendent. He said he also is "open" to expanding private school choice options, which use taxpayer dollars to send students to private schools.

A Clemson University undergrad and USC Law School graduate, Dunn is a lieutenant colonel in the S.C. Army National Guard. He previously was as an embedded trainer with an Afghan infantry company from 2004 to 2005, a mission that earned him a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star.

The winner of the GOP primary race — which could go to a runoff on Aug. 28 — will face Democrat Dick Harpootlian, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, on Nov. 6 to fill the last two years of Courson's term.

Courson resigned June 4 after pleading guilty to misconduct in office in the State House corruption probe, triggering the special election.

Filing for the seat ends at noon on Saturday.

District 20 stretches from the southern neighborhoods of Columbia to the northwest, along Interstate 26 into portions of Lexington County.