Election 2010: Prosecutor, 29, begins campaign for Richland council

Seth Rose has been going door to door since August, meeting voters in downtown Columbia and St. Andrews.

But the 29-year-old prosecutor doesn't officially kick off his campaign for Richland County Council until a fundraiser tonight.

Rose wants to succeed Kit Smith in representing District 5. After nearly 20 years, Smith has announced she's not seeking re-election.

"I want to make things happen, and that's why I'm getting involved," said Rose, a Democrat who lives in Shandon and serves on the neighborhood council there. "I don't want to sit on the sidelines."

He is still formulating his platform but said his focus is to address crime.

Allies, including his tennis coach from his days at the University of South Carolina, say Rose's work ethic is a defining characteristic.

Coach Kent DeMars worked with Rose as an undergraduate, 1999-2003. DeMars accepted Rose as a freshman as a favor for a fellow coach.

"We had 10 players on the team, and he was either nine or 10," DeMars said. "He was at the bottom, and in a couple of short months he worked his way ... into the starting lineup at No. 6."

That was remarkable in itself, DeMars said. But by his senior year, Rose was No. 1 on the team, becoming one of only six All-Americans USC has had in singles.

"He just outworked everybody," DeMars said. "That's just the way he is."

Rose graduated from USC in 2003 and finished USC's law school in 2007.

His first job out of college was an appointment as one of about 25 assistant solicitors in the 5th Circuit, working for Barney Giese.

Giese said he gave Rose the go-ahead to run for office, though Rose would have to quit his job if he wins. State law prohibits dual office-holding.

"That's something I've actually had to struggle with because I love my job," Rose said.

He doesn't know what he'd do for work. Part-time service on County Council pays $14,500 a year.

A native of Charleston, W. Va., he moved to Columbia about 10 years ago. His wife, Anna Cartin Rose, is from Irmo. They have no children.

Rose said he was motivated to run for office after seeing so many young men and women going through the court system. Many have children themselves.

He said he's looking into ways the county and school board could work with law enforcement to identify at-risk youths and help them develop role models, community-service programs and jobs.

"I want to get to the grass roots of the problem of crime, which is kids," Rose said.

He also mentioned the need for incentives to promote energy-efficient redevelopment and the need to work out friction between the city and county on paying for countywide fire service.

His No. 1 funding priority would be public safety, he said. "And then from there, we have to prioritize."

Fellow lawyers, even those who have been adversaries in the courtroom, say they hold Rose in high esteem.

"He's very persuasive. He makes very good, clear, concise arguments," said defense lawyer Neal Lourie, who's contributing to the Rose campaign.

Leigh Leventis said the fact that Rose "jumped in with both feet" might discourage other candidates from running.

"You could characterize Seth as energetic, enthusiastic, thorough - which are qualities I think would be great for a person on County Council."

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, a host for this evening's campaign event, said he would expect Rose to follow his conscience rather than do what's popular.

Filing for the seat doesn't start until March 16. The primary is June 8.