Why would a successful real estate agent in a booming market want to screw things up and run for the state House of Representatives seat left vacant by John Graham Altman III, especially after seeing all the ugliness and stupidity of the political process as a former president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters?

Well, for Jane Barr, a 12-year resident of Johns Island, her experience as an advocate for the elderly, her work with the league, and her time spent volunteering for campaigns dating back to her college days, has inspired her to become even more involved in the community.

“The last thing I ever thought I’d become was a politician,” says Barr, who lost to Anne Frances Bleecker for City Council in a 2003 campaign.

Altman’s decision not to seek reelection left the Republican ticket wide open. Barr says that the local Republican Party, led by Cyndi Mosteller, hasn’t settled on which candidate it’s going to back, and won’t until after the primaries in June.

Since the General Assembly likely won’t pass any property tax reform this session, Barr believes an additional year of study is warranted since “politicians aren’t experts on everything.”

As such, she would like to see a panel of “real” experts examine the issue of reducing property taxes by jacking up the sales tax, especially since public education funding could be in the balance.

Barr, despite the votes she might be able to pick up, is against deconsolidating the county’s public school district into separate districts for each municipality because she believes it would neither create nor strengthen a sense of “community” within the district.

But like School Board candidate Arthur Ravenel Jr., Barr is in love with the reintroduction of vocational classes, as well as charter schools as a solution to local education woes.

“What a beautiful arrangement, where everyone — parents, teachers, and administrators — are all accountable,” says Barr.

On the topic of education, Barr admits to not being completely up to speed on the outcome of an education lawsuit the state recently lost that, as a result, now requires expanded pre-K reading programs in rural areas.

Should she win the primary and the election, Barr would find herself in a political body that has a weak record supporting Gov. Mark Sanford’s various legislative agendas. A big admirer of what Sanford has done in balancing the budget and repaying debts from the recession of earlier this decade, she supports Sanford’s goal of reducing pork in the budget.

Unlike many fellow Republicans, Barr actually favors raising a tax, albeit the one on cigarettes. “If increasing the tax will help state medical programs, why not?”

That approach would greatly differ from Altman’s reign in 119th, as he fought any tax that came across his desk. In this way she comes off a bit like a Republocrat — someone who knows the state’s political wind vane has spun 180 degrees from when South Carolinians would elect a yellow dog, as long as the dog ran as a Democrat.

Barr says her leadership style would also differ from Altman’s as she considers herself a “moderate” Republican more concerned about fiscal restraint than moral restraint. “How can you legislate a custom?” she asks.

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