S.C. House District 110
William Cogswell (Republican, incumbent)
Ben Pogue (Democrat)
S.C. Rep. William Cogswell is wrapping up his first term representing District 110, which stretches from downtown south of Calhoun Street, across the Cooper, and into Mt. Pleasant along the Wando River. A developer by trade, Cogswell’s company has headed up massive adaptive reuse projects like the Cigar Factory downtown and the Garco Mill in North Charleston. Despite his credentials as a developer, or perhaps in light of his experience with projects that require significant environmental remediation, Cogswell notched a solid conservation-minded voting record this year. Cogswell has also been behind a push with other new members of the House to completely overhaul state government by rewriting the state constitution to strengthen the state’s executive, shifting power from the legislature to the governor.
For both Cogswell and his opponent, meteorologist-turned-lawyer Ben Pogue, flooding remains the top issue in the district, most of which sits just a few inches above sea level. Cogswell makes the case that Charleston residents do not see enough return for the tax revenue they send to Columbia, particularly when it comes to saving valuable downtown real estate from flooding. “Property that’s underwater doesn’t pay taxes,” Cogswell says in a campaign video.
Pogue describes his views on climate change and its effects as directly informed by his experiences as a TV weatherman and volunteering in the wake of major storms. Spending time in Gulf Coast shelters following Hurricane Katrina, Pogue says, showed him the value of directly engaging with people affected by tragedy. Pogue contends that Cogswell and his predecessor Chip Limehouse, also a Republican working in real estate, have failed to produce results in District 110 or make local communities feel like they’re fairly represented in Columbia. Pogue tells us that, if elected, he would view his job as a representative as a full time position.
We agree with Ben Pogue that all South Carolinians deserve empathetic representation in Columbia and applaud Rep. Cogswell for supporting conservation issues. The incumbent is right, it is time to upend state government, but we’re a bit skeptical of Cogswell’s approach given some of the ultra-conservative members who have signed on with his proposal. The lack of substantive legislation put forward by Cogswell and the more than 420 votes he missed last session raise questions about the time he will dedicate to the office. Charleston and Mt. Pleasant voters should elect Ben Pogue.
S.C. House District 112
Rep. Mike Sottile (Republican, incumbent)
Joe Preston (Democrat)
After a lengthy stretch of running unopposed in the general election for District 112, incumbent Rep. Mike Sottile faces newcomer Democrat Joe Preston.
Starting out on Isle of Palms City Council in 1990, Sottile went on to become mayor of the island before his election to state House of Representatives in 2008. After nearly 30 years in public office, the Republican incumbent prioritizes education and infrastructure, calling for an increase in teacher pay and school choice. According to Sottile, more competitive wages for teachers will be key to preventing the loss of talented educators to neighboring counties.
Having supported the effort to gain funding to replace the state’s aging fleet of school buses, Sottile says he will continue to call for more improvements to roads and bridges, as well as the completion of I-526. Sottile opposes offshore oil drilling off the coast of South Carolina, which he says could result in a mishap that would kill the area’s tourism industry and bankrupt the coast.
Sottile is also an advocate for ethics reform among the state’s General Assembly, saying that he and his fellow members of the House have pushed multiple bills to promote accountability and transparency, but faced resistance from the Senate.
Democratic challenger Joe Preston also names education as his top concern. He calls for increasing per-pupil spending to an acceptable level and a raise in teacher pay.
With multiple investigations for corruption taking place in Columbia, Preston places ethics reform just above infrastructure improvements on his list of priorities. Drawing from his own experience campaigning for state office, Preston has been shocked by the lack of oversight in the election process.
Looking to represent one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, Preston recognizes that more roads will need to be built in order to keep pace with local expansion, but he believes mass transit to be the best path forward to curb traffic congestion. This includes working with CARTA to implement bus routes to Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, as well as the creation of more park-and-ride services. Preston’s plans for transportation alternatives extend to bringing some form of bike-share system to his district and possibly resurrecting the trolley system that shuttled residents from the islands to the mainland in the early 1900s.
While Preston lacks the political experience of his veteran opponent, he credits his years as a volunteer firefighter as preparation for working to help those who are facing the worst, regardless of party affiliation.
We hope that newcomer Joe Preston continues to wade into the public arena, particularly on the local level where his command of the issues shows. As East Cooper continues to grow, we believe Sottile will continue to advocate capably for his coastal neighbors.
S.C. House District 114
Lin Bennett (Republican, incumbent)
Dan Jones (Democrat)
Melissa Couture (Libertarian)
Voters west of the Ashley in District 114 have been in a bit of a purgatory since Bobby Harrell, the former speaker who resigned as part of a deal with investigators looking into ethics violations, left office in 2014. Democrat Mary Tinkler held the seat for one term before she was elected Charleston County treasurer, leaving the seat for ex-Charleston County Republican Party leader Lin Bennett who was elected in 2016 against Democrat Bob Aubin. And amid speculation that Harrell may attempt to return to politics in his old seat at some point, Bennett is running for re-election. A conservative firebrand, Rep. Bennett stands by education as her top issue. She says she’d like to expand options for students who aren’t college-bound and improve reading levels among young elementary-aged students. Bennett says she’s also concerned about how projects funded by the state’s now-higher gas tax (which she opposed) are being prioritized. When asked about Medicaid funds going to women’s reproductive health organizations like Planned Parenthood, Bennett says flatly, “abortion is murder, period.”
Democrat Dan Jones and Libertarian Melissa Couture are bringing Bennett her first re-election challenge.
Jones, a film industry technician with a background in accounting, is a newcomer to politics who says he wants to bring an “outside the system mindset” to address mismanagement in the state capitol. Generally, Jones points to the V.C. Summer nuclear plant boondoggle, struggling schools, and lacking infrastructure as issues that prompted him to run. Locally, Jones rattles off flooding and congestion as two issues he’s eager to address.
Falling in line with the small government ideology of the Libertarian Party she’s running with, Melissa Couture says she’s worried about over-regulation from Columbia.
West Ashley residents need a representative devoted to finding middle ground on complex issues, not fighting partisan battles. Voters should elect Dan Jones.
S.C. House District 94 (Open seat)
Con Chellis (Republican)
Damian Daly (Democrat)
The race to replace current District 94 Rep. Katie Arrington is between Republican Con Chellis and Democrat Damian Daly. Chellis, a small business owner and Summerville native, says his biggest priority is a “full overhaul” of the state’s tax system in favor of a more “sustainable” one. Citing the need to improve the state’s roads and the “thin budgets” of school and local governments, he favors consumption-based taxes like the gas tax (which went into effect this year, but has barely been used). Asked about supporting anti-discrimination LGBTQ protections, he told City Paper that he’s not invested in social issues and is “cautious on big government and government overreach.” Daly, on the other hand, proved to be a hard person to get in touch with. The email and phone number listed on his election filing do not seem operational, and a Charleston Democratic Party official told us he’s never spoken to the candidate. A 2016 article in the Summerville Journal-Scene cited health care, the environment, and stronger gun laws as important issues for Daly, and mentioned that he was against abortion and gay marriage.
S.C. House District 99
Nancy Mace (Republican, incumbent)
Jen Gibson (Democrat)
Two mothers and small business owners are vying to represent Daniel Island and parts of Hanahan and Mt. Pleasant in the S.C. House. They are Republican Nancy Mace, who holds the seat after winning a special election in January, and Democrat Jen Gibson, a progressive community activist and one of the spate of women inspired to run after the 2016 presidential election. Mace says infrastructure remains the number one priority for her voters. She’s focused on restructuring the state’s Public Service Commission, which is blamed for much of the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle, and continuing to try and pass anti-offshore drilling legislation. As a twice-daily user of CBD oil, a non-psychoactive hemp plant derivative, Mace is also a big proponent of medical marijuana. Gibson, known to some for her anti-racist activism throughout Charleston, is focused on reforming the Education Accountability Act, ridding the Statehouse of corruption, and women’s health care. Gibson strongly opposed Gov. Henry McMaster’s decision to strike $16 million in family planning funds from the state budget earlier this year. McMaster cited abortions provided by Planned Parenthood as a reason for the veto. Mace voted to bring the issue up for debate, but told CP that she agrees that the money was never going to abortions, something that’s mostly illegal under federal law. “Right now, the governor is in a lawsuit over that issue, and the courts will ultimately decide,” Mace said.
If nothing else, we’re hoping that Jen Gibson’s energetic candidacy to represent a growing part of the Charleston area will inspire others to jump into the political world. Rep. Mace has taken some open-minded stances we agree with, particularly on opposing the plastic bag ban ban (remember that one?), but Gibson’s on-the-ground approach is how we want to see more politicians conduct themselves. We hope it’ll rub off when voters send her to Columbia.
S.C. House District 119
Leon Stavrinakis (Democrat, incumbent)
Paul Sizemore (Republican)
Leon Stavrinakis, the incumbent Democrat representing parts of West Ashley, James Island, and the majority of Johns Island in the S.C. House, says there’s no question that traffic and infrastructure are the biggest issues in the minds of his constituents. That’s why completing I-526, along with continuing to fight against offshore drilling, are his biggest priorities if re-elected. Political division is also big on the campaign trail, he says. “Sadly, I hear a lot of people disheartened and disenchanted with the work of politics and government,” he said. “I try to do my part to offset that by being someone who focuses on policy and not on personal attacks.” Paul Sizemore, the Republican challenger, cites revitalizing infrastructure, strengthening education, and heading an open and communicative office as his main priorities on his website. On his Twitter account, Sizemore supported U.S. House candidate Katie Arrington and former gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton, along with President Donald Trump’s plans for “sealing up our Southern Border,” based on a retweet from the president’s account.
Stavrinakis has served voters west of the Ashley well for years, voters should send him back to Columbia.
S.C. House District 115
Peter McCoy (Republican, incumbent)
Carol Tempel (Democrat)
Republican Peter McCoy, an eight-year veteran of the state House, is being challenged by Democrat Carol Tempel for the seat representing most of James Island along with Folly Beach and Kiawah Island. Tempel says the district has been “so badly gerrymandered,” and wants to sign on to a bill calling for an independent redistricting commission. Tempel, a 40-year resident of James Island and a former principal at Academic Magnet High, has focused her campaign on expanding health care options, including strong support for Medicaid expansion, and on improving trade education in local high schools that could lead to manufacturing jobs in the Lowcountry. McCoy’s priorities include changing ethics laws in regard to utilities, raising teacher pay, preserving the environment, and fighting over-development on James Island and Folly Beach. In a phone call with CP, Tempel criticized the low passage rate of bills sponsored by McCoy. McCoy says part of the job involves stopping bad bills. “If that’s the only thing she has to say about me, that’s pretty good,” he said. Asked about his stance on LGBTQ rights, McCoy simply said he believes “everyone should be treated equally under our constitution,” and committed to “ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in South Carolina,” a gender equality effort.
We love Carol Tempel and applaud her years of work in the progressive community. She’s exactly right that the redistricting process is broken. But Rep. McCoy’s recent initiatives to address and resolve the V.C. Summer nuclear boondoggle with a sense of urgency and responsibility have put Charleston at the front of the fight against what sure looks like regulatory deception. Charleston-area voters should give Rep. Peter McCoy a chance to continue that work.
S.C. House District 15
Samuel Rivers, Jr. (Republican, incumbent)
J.A. Moore (Democrat)
Incumbent Rep. Samuel Rivers is fielding his second energetic young challenger in as many cycles. CP contributor KJ Kearney tried to unseat Rivers most recently, but like many things in 2016, that race didn’t work out as planned. This year, Hanahan culinary professional J.A. Moore is making a run at the district, which encompasses parts of North Charleston, Hanahan, and Goose Creek between I-26 and the upper twists of the Cooper River.
Samuel Rivers has held District 15 since 2013 despite revelations first uncovered by local Democrats and reported in the City Paper in 2014 that cast doubt on the legitimacy of his divinity Ph.D. from a shadowy Florida school and revealed a 1995 assault conviction. Since we asked questions back then, the pastor and motivational speaker has changed the wording on his website and had the bullet citing his “Smith Christian University, Ph.D. in Theology” removed from his Statehouse web page. (Rivers’ website now says he holds “an Honorary Doctorate of Theology from Smith University.”)
J.A. Moore is a newcomer to politics, but not to working in his community. On the campaign trail, he says he’s hearing from voters about education the most. If elected, Moore says he’ll work with state leaders to make sure state schools are fully funded, citing an estimated $474 per student funding shortfall in the most recent state budget. When it comes down to the nitty gritty of making good on infrastructure promises in the midst of continued growth in his suburban Charleston district, Moore hopes to take a role as a regionally-focused, “pragmatic, progressive” leader. Moore’s platform also includes advocating for tuition-free technical college and strengthening anti-domestic violence laws.
Over the course of our discussion last week, Moore never brought up one of the reasons why he has said that he decided to run. In 2015, Moore’s half-sister Myra Thompson was among the nine killed at Mother Emanuel. Combined with the later death of his brother, the events, he says, put things in perspective, leading to his current run for office.
We have never been encouraged by Rep. Rivers’ partisan conservative agenda, but we are impressed with the ideas J.A. Moore has put forward before taking office and support a vote to send him to Columbia.
S.C. House District 117
Bill Crosby (Republican, incumbent)
Krystle Simmons (Democrat)
Democrat Krystle Simmons is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Crosby, who has represented a compact inland district anchored on University Boulevard, running into rural Berkeley County, since 2011. Simmons says she wants to bring a younger voice to the local delegation in an effort to make sure that new growth is undertaken equitably across the Charleston Metro. A Boeing engineering planner, Simmons says she never considered running for office until she read up on the midterm elections and decided it was too important to pass on the opportunity. Asked about incumbent Crosby, Simmons says she doesn’t take any issue with any of his policies specifically. “My race is not against him. I am running to represent those, like me, that want to see change and have ideas that can improve without losing who we are.”
By all accounts, Rep. Bill Crosby is liked in his district and has served his neighbors well as a public servant, but we can’t pass on a chance to send new, energetic leadership to Columbia. Krystle Simmons deserves a chance to shake things up.
S.C. House District 109
David Mack (Democrat, incumbent)
Rodney Travis (Libertarian)
Overseeing a Democratic stronghold of sorts, incumbent Rep. David Mack III hasn’t faced a Republican opponent in the race for District 109 since 2008. After more than 20 years in the state House of Representatives, Mack says his focus remains on quality of life for his constituents, including improving public education, and creating well-paying jobs. Mack believes the South Carolina legislators’ refusal of federal health care expansion money was a massive error on their parts and plans on working to rectify that mistake should he remain in office. Another continued effort on Mack’s part is the reintroduction of his Inclusionary Zoning Act, which failed to pass last legislative term but stands as his plan to create more affordable housing for South Carolina’s working-class families.
Opposing the longtime incumbent is the only candidate who dared to run against him in the past decade, Libertarian Rodney Travis. Travis claimed just over 16 percent of the vote when these two last ran against each other for the District 109 seat in 2014. The Libertarian candidate faults his opponent and fellow House members for the passage of the recently repealed 2007 Base Load Review Act, which is tied to the failure of the VC Summer nuclear power plant project.
Travis wishes to solve overcrowding in prisons by simply building larger facilities, saying that South Carolina cannot have a revolving door court and prison system. Travis is also concerned with what he feels is Charleston’s transformation into a “tourism amusement park,” where living expenses have become too steep.
While Travis sees his strengths in being a longtime North Charleston resident looking to unseat who he refers to as a career politician, Mack is looking to find a holistic solution to his district’s problems. Mack acknowledges that education, health care, and crime are all tied together, and he hopes that he can find a way to address these issues by generating opportunities for the children in his district so they can develop the skills they need to benefit not only themselves, but their community.
Rep. David Mack knows the issues of his bonkers district which stretches from Mt. Pleasant to Summerville. Voters should re-elect him on Nov. 6.
S.C. House District 116
Robert Brown (Democrat, incumbent)
Carroll O’Neal (Republican)
Competing for state House of Representatives District 116 for the third straight election are Democratic incumbent Robert Brown and Republican challenger Carroll O’Neal.
After running unopposed in 2012, Brown managed to take over 55 percent of the votes over O’Neal in 2014. O’Neal managed to shrink that margin to just under 8 percent in the following election, with the incumbent claiming just under 54 percent of votes.
Chief among Brown’s priorities are infrastructure, namely the completion of a flyover and improvements to highway U.S. 17 and Main Road. The representative is in favor of controlled development in this mostly rural district, especially in Hollywood and Johns Island.
Following feedback from his constituents, Brown says he has been pushing the South Carolina Department of Transportation to keep ditches cleared of debris to help alleviate flooding problems, which he hopes to address using added funds from the half-cent sales tax.
Much of Brown’s focus appears to be on maintaining the health of local waterways and coastal areas that serve as the backbone of the area’s tourism industry. After a leak in Hollywood’s sewer system caused the temporary closure of local shellfish beds earlier this year, Brown is seeking out additional funding to ensure that the system is up to regulations and properly maintained.
Brown wants to be a leading voice in opposition to offshore drilling along the coast of South Carolina, adding that he doesn’t just want to say “No.” He wants to say “Hell no.”
Where Brown and fellow candidate O’Neal come into agreement is their shared desire to complete I-526, which they both view as a necessity to ensure that island residents have a proper evacuation route in the case of a storm.
Besides infrastructure improvements, O’Neal wants to see vocational training implemented in schools as early as the seventh grade, adding that home economics and learning basic life skills will be of more use to students than the Common Core curriculum.
As with his opponent in the election, O’Neal points to flooding as a major concern, which is being worsened by the continued development of the area’s natural run-offs and marshes. O’Neal prefers to err on the side of preservation, which makes sense since he prides himself as a rancher and a farmer.
Taking his attention to the wider world of politics, O’Neal says this is the most important election in history and calls on voters to keep the nation red to avoid a country where Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have control. O’Neal is proudly behind President Donald Trump and a firm believer in telling other countries that the United States is going to do its own thing.
Rep. Robert Brown’s constituents will be well served by re-electing him on Nov. 6.