State Rep. Rick Quinn spent a recent Friday campaigning for his June 14 Lexington County GOP primary race in the Carriage Hill Lakes neighborhood.
The voters that Quinn talked to all echoed the same message: Fix the state’s crumbling roads.
Quinn is one of six incumbent Republican legislators in Lexington who has drawn a June GOP primary challenge.
In one of those contests, state Sen. Katrina Shealy of Lexington – one of only two women in the state Senate – has drawn two primary opponents.
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Meanwhile, another four Republicans are seeking the S.C. House seat being vacated by state Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, who is retiring after this session.
This year’s flood of Lexington GOP candidates has emerged because the conservative county’s voters — like voters nationwide — want to change politics, the candidates say.
Quinn: Constituents not focused on controversy
Quinn says his constituents want to talk about roads, not the recent revelation that he is named in a once-secret State Law Enforcement Division report into allegations of State House corruption.
Part of that report says another state representative told SLED that, more than a decade ago, Quinn used his position as House majority leader to steer business to his private business.
Aside from family and friends, only one constituent has brought up the SLED report, Quinn says.
The incumbent said he is happy the public now can see what he did 14 years ago, adding the S.C. attorney general and House Ethics Committee advised his actions were legal.
Quinn’s GOP primary challenger, Ryan Holt, said he would not comment on the SLED report. “Anything that would come from my mouth would politicize the issue.”
Holt said he does not see himself as running against Quinn. Instead, Holt said he is running for the District 69 House seat – which represents parts of Lexington, West Columbia and St. Andrews – because he has something to offer its residents.
After announcing he was running for the seat in July, Holt spent the first couple of months meeting with community leaders. Since September, Holt has been going door to door, knocking on more than 4,000 doors in the district.
If elected, the Lexington County Medical Center board member said he plans to push to restructure state government, adding the Legislature should have less control over state agencies and boards.
Holt said Lexington’s closeness to Columbia makes the county’s residents more engaged with S.C. politics.
“Lexingtonians are a great group of people because they tell it like it is,” Holt said. “They’re very in tune to government and how it affects them, and they’re a very conservative group of people.”
Fight for an open seat
Four candidates are seeking the Republican nomination to claim Bingham’s District 89 seat, which stretches across Cayce and West Columbia.
Prosecutor Micah Caskey, who has military experience as a captain in the Marine Corps, said South Carolina has no shortage of issues affecting people’s lives, citing the $16.75 billion funding gap in the pension fund for state workers, calling it a tax by another name.
Caskey said the state needs better solutions and to be more efficient. “People are frustrated that they’re working hard, and their government isn’t delivering what they deserve.”
Former Lexington County councilman Bill Banning, also vying for the District 89 seat, notes Lexington County is growing, adding growth requires additional services.
Banning said people always are concerned about their tax level and services, but, he added, someone has to pay the bill. For example, Banning said increasing state’s gas tax could be a part of solution to fixing the state’s battered roads.
In Lexington County, Banning pushed for a penny-on-the-dollar sales-tax increase to pay for road repairs and capital projects, defeated nearly two to one in 2014.
Tem Miles, an attorney and West Columbia City councilman, says Lexington County is at a crossroads, citing the fight over whether to increase the county’s sales taxes.
“If we don’t soon stand up and make some hard changes in our state, it’s going to be too late to set the ship on the right path,” Miles said.
West Columbia attorney Billy Oswald, a former County Council member, wants term limits for elected officials and opposes increasing taxes.
Outgoing Rep. Bingham said he does not plan to endorse any of the candidates.
Senator draws two challengers
Shealy — one of only two women in the state Senate — has drawn two challengers for the District 23 seat, which stretches across the southern part of the county.
Michael Sturkie opposed Shealy and then-Sen. Jake Knotts in the 2008 GOP primary.
Sturkie, a general contractor who runs S&T Grading, said he was asked to run again because some residents of the district do not think they have a voice.
Sturkie also said his experience in highway construction could be used to improve the state Transportation Department and repair roads.
Patricia Wheat, the other challenger, said she did legislative work on domestic-violence laws when she lived in Colorado in the 1980s.
In Colorado, Wheat said she pushed to remove the presumption of visitation for a parent who had been convicted of a violent crime. She said a similar law since has been passed in at least 43 other states.
Wheat said she wants to be an advocate for S.C. children in the family court system and for changes in the state’s judicial system.
Wheat says greater accountability for judges would improve family and criminal courts.
Wheat said a judge should be appointed by lawmakers or the governor. But, after a two-year term, the people living in the judge’s district should vote whether retain or remove the judge, she said. A vote should happen again every four years after that.
As she seeks a second term, Shealy said she plans to continue door-knocking and fund raising. “You’ve got to get out and meet the people.”
Shealy says the Lexington residents who say now that they want change got what they were looking for when she was elected, ousting Knotts in 2012.
“If they were looking for something different, they actually got it in 2012, when they elected me.”
Primary day in Lexington
Six GOP Lexington legislators have drawn GOP primary challengers for their state House and Senate seats. In another race, four challengers are seeking to fill the vacancy created by a retiring lawmaker. A look at the candidates in the June 14 GOP primary and how much money they have raised:
Senate District 23
Katrina Shealy, incumbent
Education: Batesburg-Leesville High School; University of South Carolina, education policy fellow; Darden School of Business, emerging leaders program
Family: Married James Irby Shealy, three children, five grandchildren
Job: Insurance consultant for Keenan Suggs
Money raised for election: $138,348
Cash available to spend: $56,629
Education: Rift Valley Academy
Family: Married to Kathy Sturkie, three children and six grandchildren
Job: General contractor, owner of S&T Grading
Money raised for election: Not available. Sturkie said he has not yet opened a campaign account but planned to do so and would then have 10 days to make an initial filing.
Education: Evergreen High School
Family: Married to Russell Wheat, seven children and 14 grandchildren
Job: Owner of Tele-Audit, which manages telephone and internet services for businesses
Money raised for election: $2,520
Cash available to spend: $2,104
House District 39
Education: Batesburg-Leesville High School
Job: Owns a firearms business, runs Price’s Metal Shop and Industrial Supply in Monetta
Money raised for election: $25,160
Cash available to spend: $14,532
Ralph Shealy Kennedy, incumbent
Education: Clemson University, bachelor’s degree; University of South Carolina law degree
Family: Married to Lisa Kennedy, two children
Job: Kennedy Law Firm, owner
Money raised for election: $65,622
Cash available to spend: $33,906
House District 69
Education: USC, bachelor’s degree; USC School of Law
Family: Married to Jill Holt
Job: Attorney, Sweeny, Wingate & Barrow
Money raised for election: $16,137
Cash available to spend: $11,870
Rick Quinn, incumbent
Education: USC, bachelor’s degree
Family: Married to Amy Quinn, two children
Job: Owner of Mail Market Strategies and campaign consultant
Money raised for election: $34,440
Cash available to spend: $26,503
House District 85
Education: Clemson University, bachelor’s degree
Family: Married to Kelli Clifton, two children
Job: Clifton Custom Homes, owner
Money raised for election: $15,135
Cash available to spend: $6,145
Chip Huggins, incumbent
Education: Winthrop University, bachelor’s degree
Family: Ginger Huggins, two children
Job: Director of Business Development for Duraclean
Money raised for election: $49,482
Cash available to spend: $32,770
House District 88
Education: Brookland Cayce High School; USC, bachelor’s degree
Family: Married to Saundra Kaye Busby, one child, four grandchildren
Job: Retired, Department of Natural Resources; Pine Ridge mayor
Money raised for election: $3,200
Cash available to spend: $1,907
Mac Toole, incumbent
Education: Midlands Technical College, associate’s degree
Family: Married to Linda Toole, two children
Money raised for this election: $10,900
Cash available to spend: $29,841, including money carried over from previous elections
House District 89
Education: Corllins University, bachelor’s degree
Family: Married to Wanda Banning, two children, six grandchildren
Job: Retired, the Banning Agency; former Lexington County councilman
Money raised for this election: $5,208
Cash available to spend: $2,350
Education: Bachelor’s degree, the University of Florida; international master’s in business administration and law degree, USC
Job: Assistant 11th Circuit solicitor
Money raised for this election: $4,030
Cash available to spend: $3,843
Education: Bachelor’s degree, The Citadel; law degree, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School
Family: Married to Cassie Miles, three daughters
Job: Civil defense trial attorney, West Columbia city councilman
Money raised for this election: $1,700
Cash available to spend: $1,537
Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees, USC
Family: Married to Brenda Oswald
Job: Oswald and Burnside, owner
Money raised for this election: $7,350
Cash available to spend: $2,729
House District 96
Education: Furman High School
Family: Married to Kimberly Finch, three children and three grandchildren
Job: Owner, Twin Builders; farmer
Money raised for this election: $208
Cash available to spend: $0
Kit Spires, incumbent
Age : 62
Education: USC, pharmacy degree
Family: Two children
Job: Pharmacy owner/pharmacist
Money raised for this election: $7,911
Cash available to spend: $13,852, including money from previous campaigns
SOURCE: State Ethics Commission