All 124 state House districts are up for election on Nov. 4, but in 93 of those districts, there is only one major-party candidate running. Meet the House candidates for District 109 (North Charleston, parts of Dorchester and Charleston counties), District 114 (West Ashley, parts of Dorchester and Charleston counties), and District 119 (outer West Ashley and James Island, parts of Charleston County).
S.C. House District 109
David Mack III (Incumbent) (Democratic)
First elected in 1996, Democratic state Rep. David Mack III has spent his entire political career as a member of the State House of Representatives’ minority party. But despite some conspicuous partisan victories for the Republican majority — Mack points to voter ID laws and the rejection of Medicaid expansion as recent examples — he says his party’s efforts have not been in vain.
“We’ve more or less kept things from being as bad as they could have been,” Mack says.
If he’s re-elected, Mack says he already has a few bills in mind to pre-file for the 2015 legislative session. Some are likely to garner bipartisan support, like a bill to coordinate law enforcement agencies during missing-persons cases. Others are a long shot, like a bill to set up single-payer government-funded healthcare in South Carolina.
“Now, people will think, ‘You’re definitely not going to get single-payer passed in a state like South Carolina,’ but I’m going to file it anyway, and I’m going to fight for it anyway,” Mack says. He has also introduced several bills over the years that would have raised the minimum wage, but none have passed.
On education, Mack says the school system is “focused too much on Montessori programs” and says he wants to change the state funding structure so that more money is given to rural and high-poverty schools.
“I hate the term ‘failing schools,'” Mack says. “What we do, basically, is we take the ‘students with resources’ out. They’re able to go to a special magnet or a special charter, and then we leave all the other kids there and usually their families have socioeconomic challenges. And then, when they don’t perform well, we call it a ‘failing school.'”
Rodney Travis (Libertarian)
In the early 1990s, Rodney Travis owned a bingo hall in Goose Creek. One day a Department of Revenue employee called him with some bad news.
“They told me I had to come down and pay a $400-some-odd fine,” Travis says. “I said, ‘What for?’ and they said, ‘Your bingo caller made an incorrect bingo announcement on the microphone.'” Travis says he closed his bingo hall shortly after receiving the call, became a committed Libertarian, and eventually went on to serve as vice chairman and chairman of the S.C. Libertarian Party. Today, he works as a landlord as well as in the office of a downtown condominium, and he says he wants to reduce state regulations.
“We need to make it easier for people to make money and be successful instead of using tax breaks for all kinds of new companies,” Travis says. “We need to have less taxation and less regulation, and maybe even go to the Fair Tax program or something where people can keep their income.”
Travis is critical of incumbent David Mack’s talk radio program on WJNI, which he says Mack uses to beat up on Gov. Nikki Haley. “All he does is drum on her opposition of Medicaid expansion,” Travis says. “He’ll drum on how the blacks have to vote against Nikki Haley, mainly because of Medicaid expansion.”
Asked for his own stance on health insurance, Travis says, “I believe that sooner or later we have to turn things around and get people responsible to pay for their own healthcare instead of depending on the government.”
Travis says he supports the use of vouchers to help parents pay for private school tuition.
“I’m in favor of anything to bring more of a market-based approach to our education system to improve our schools,” Travis says.
S.C. House District 114
Sue Edward (Green)
When Sue Edward moved from liberal Madison, Wisc., to South Carolina, she says she became disenchanted with the local Democratic Party and decided to co-found the S.C. Green Party.
Edward, who works in quality assurance for Omatic Software, says one of her goals in office would be to ban offshore drilling off of South Carolina’s coast. She says seismic airgun testing, part of the process of searching for oil underwater, could injure or kill thousands of marine animals.
“At least it would put a statement out there if we would say it’s banned in South Carolina waters,” Edward says. “Even though the federal government could probably override that in the federal waters, at least it’s something. It’s a start, and maybe we’d get other states to join.”
Edward says she would push for the use of wind, solar, and tidal energy. She opposes the use of nuclear power.
If elected, Edward says she would oppose new rules restricting women’s access to birth control and abortions. She opposes South Carolina’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. “It serves no purpose other than to harass,” Edward says. “Women are not stupid; they know their alternatives. For them to say, ‘Well, they need more time to think about it,’ is just ridiculous. It’s just the legislature trying to dictate to somebody that really they shouldn’t be sticking their nose into.”
Edward says she would also push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage in South Carolina.
“Tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy, that money goes into banks or it goes offshore, but it doesn’t go into the economy,” Edward says. “But if you have somebody who’s working two or three jobs, and now they’re taking home more money, maybe they don’t have to work that third job. They can stay home with their kids, they can buy their kids shoes, take their kids out for ice cream or a movie or something.”
Bobby Harrell (Incumbent, Republican)
Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to six counts of violating state ethics laws and announced his resignation last Thursday, but his name will remain on the ballot. At press time election officials were saying that if Harrell receives the most votes, the office will go to the candidate with the second-most votes. Local Republican leaders are seeking to have the District 114 election postponed so that they can have a candidate in the race.
Mary Tinkler (Democratic)
Realtor Mary Tinkler has never run for public office before, but she did help manage her father Paul Tinkler’s campaign for the state Senate in 2012. This year, as incumbent Bobby Harrell faced charges related to ethics violations, she decided to enter the race as a Democratic challenger. She says she sees “an opportunity for the state to move forward on something like ethics reform.”
Tinkler says state legislators should no longer self-police on ethical issues. “It is human nature, if you have someone patting your back, you know, things are going to let slip,” Tinkler says. “And so I think that absolutely there should be an independent body who is governing any kind of ethics violations, someone who would know the difference between ethics and criminal charges.” She says she also wants to require all legislators to fully disclose their income, and she says the Palmetto Leadership Council, a political action committee that was affiliated with Harrell, “should be abolished.”
The campaign platform on Tinkler’s website states that “our education funding per child is 31 percent less than what is required by law,” but when asked about the figure, Tinkler could not give specifics. “I just want to make sure that projects are funded well enough that children can excel,” Tinkler says. When asked for her ideas on school funding, Tinkler said, “I think it’s not only fixing the school funding, but it’s going to be … making sure that the programs we do have in place are working for us and not wasting spending.”
Tinkler’s website also calls for “responsible expenditure allocation” to repair bridges and highways. When asked for specifics on how to fund infrastructure improvements, Tinkler said that it “may take a restructuring of some transportation departments.” When asked if she would support raising the state gas tax to support infrastructure projects, Tinkler said, “That is a possibility. Again, I’d have to look more in depth at the system right now and where funding may be able to come otherwise.”
S.C. House District 119
Chris Cannon (Republican)
Republican Chris Cannon is a perennial candidate. He has run for the state House in almost every election since 1994 and has not won once. He says he keeps doing it to make sure Republicans have a choice in the heavily Democratic 119th House district.
“I consider myself a moderate Republican,” Cannon says. “I was just so tired of there never being a Republican running for any of the offices down there.”
Cannon has worked in the Charleston tourism business for 30 years and owns a private tour company called Mr. Charleston Tour Services. If elected, he says he would focus on cutting state spending. “The No. 1 thing to me is we just waste too much money,” Cannon says.
For starters, Cannon says the state should not be funding local festivals around the state, including the Southeastern Wildlife Expo and Spoleto Festival USA. “As long as they’ve been going on, if they can’t run without money from the state, something is wrong,” Cannon says. “It’s mismanaged or somebody is putting a lot of money in their pocket. There’s no way in the world the state should be funding these things.”
Cannon also says he would seek to require recipients of unemployment benefits to work for the state in some capacity. “If we’re going to give them money, let’s get some work out of them for it,” Cannon says. “They’ll still have plenty of time — it’s not like they’re working five days a week where they can’t look for a job — but there’s no reason in the world people can’t work a couple days a week doing something good for the community.”
Cannon says he supports the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. On the topic of education, he says the state needs to re-establish a system of mandatory reform schools to discipline children. And he says moped owners should be required to get licenses for their vehicles.
Colin Ross (Libertarian)
In addition to helping manage the gubernatorial campaign of Libertarian Steve French, Colin Ross is making a run to unseat incumbent Democratic state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis. He describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” who currently works on political campaigns and for the company LegalShield.
Ross says Columbia is in need of ethics reform, starting with an independent body to replace the self-policing bodies within the House and Senate. “The color of the legal system isn’t black or white; it’s green. Look at Bobby Harrell: White people that have lots of money don’t go to jail. Doesn’t matter if he’s [committed] six crimes,” Ross says. Under the current system of ethical checks and balances, he says, “It all depends on who you know and how much dirt you’ve got on the other legislators.”
Ross says he would want to require all legislators to disclose their private sources of income, and he would also reduce the number of positions to which the Speaker of the House can appoint people.
He is also calling for the state to cut taxes and revert to 2011 spending levels. “I would really look at getting rid of the income tax, because it’s a serial killer of jobs and opportunity,” Ross says.
According to Ross, libertarianism is a “cool buzzword” at the moment, but he doesn’t want the definition of libertarianism to be “defined by the media.”
“We are the true moderates in the world,” Ross says. “We all say that, look, we want police and fire and schools and roads, and none of us have a problem with paying for those that truly can’t take care of themselves. If you want to marry another dude, go ahead, I’ve got a mortgage to pay. If you want to smoke weed, do anything, if you want to do cocaine, I’m one of those guys: Let’s end this drug war. It’s this radical notion that you own your own body.”
Leon Stavrinakis (Incumbent, Democratic)
In 2013, Rep. Leon Stavrinakis’ most famous piece of legislation was the Boland Bill, a law that sought to prevent the sale of weapons to mentally ill people by creating a statewide database of people whom courts had deemed mentally incompetent or sent involuntarily to a mental institution.
Stavrinakis says the bill couldn’t have passed without the help of parents from Ashley Hall School, who appeared regularly at the Statehouse calling for the bill’s passage after a Beaufort woman named Alice Boland showed up at the school and attempted to shoot school officials.
“It’s not easy to do any gun legislation in a state like South Carolina, so to do it on a bipartisan basis, to get it done that fast, to turn the governor around from where she first said she wouldn’t support it to getting her to sign it … we got it done,” Stavrinakis says.
Looking forward, Stavrinakis says one of his priorities will be to help fund road and bridge repair projects through the S.C. Department of Transportation. “For me, it has to include some kind of structural reform at DOT so that the accountability over there goes up dramatically,” Stavrinakis says. “There’s just too much unknown about what they do with their money, how much money they have, how they decide what projects to fund.”
Stavrinakis also says he wants to ensure that more state education funding is directed toward children from low-income families. “We need to mandate that as many tax dollars as possible go directly to students, teachers, and classrooms,” he says.
Locally, Stavrinakis says his priorities include funding an aeronautical training center at Trident Technical College and funding a new senior center in West Ashley.
On the topic of incentives, which have been used to lure companies like Boeing to the state, Stavrinakis says the incentive process “could use a little more sunshine” and that the state should review incentive options on a case-by-case basis.
“I don’t think anybody’s saying that Michelin wasn’t worth it, BMW wasn’t worth it, Boeing wasn’t worth it,” Stavrinakis says. “Incentives are useful. They’re mandatory, really, in today’s business climate if you’re going to recruit industry.”