With a slim 40-vote margin of victory, Rep. Wallace Scarborough narrowly beat back defeat in 2006. That terribly close race, along with a sense that voters are ready for “change,” has two Democrats vying for the chance to take on the James Island Republican in November.
Eugene Platt, a member of the James Island Public Service District Commission, is making another go at the seat. This time, he’ll have to first get through a primary challenge from James Island lawyer Anne Peterson-Hutto.
Peterson-Hutto says she’s ready to listen to the concerns of voters in District 115 and take their voices to Columbia.
“Voters are telling me they’re not getting the ear of their legislator,” she says.
Peterson-Hutto supports strengthening the local school system by bringing the money back that Charleston deserves. The state’s funding formula for schools has traditionally siphoned dollars away from Charleston and other wealthy counties, convinced that we can take care of ourselves. Teachers should receive more financial support, she says, with increased salaries and more resources in the classroom.
Traffic congestion is also a concern for voters, she says. Long trips during the morning and afternoon commutes aren’t anything that voters have to explain to Peterson-Hutto — she’s regularly in the thick of it on Harbor View Road. “There’s lots of sitting,” she says.
The county and municipalities are working on ways to address traffic in the district, but Peterson-Hutto says the legislature can play a role by encouraging development regulations, shoring up highway funds, and calling for close collaboration among the district’s municipalities to make sure the roads can support the development.
Preservation and cooperation would also be priorities for Peterson-Hutto.
“I know how to work very hard with people to get things accomplished,” she says regarding bridge building in the majority Republican Statehouse. “Education and the environment are issues that are important to all of us.”
With such a close race in ’06, Platt says it was an easy decision to run again. The problems he was ready to address two years ago haven’t changed: controlling development and supporting an equitable tax system that’s focused more on income than sales and property taxes.
According to Platt, South Carolina should emulate the sharp limits on development found in other parts of the nation, like Oregon and Santa Fe. The state could also ward off an influx of new residents by requiring new industries lured to the state to look at the local hiring pool instead of bringing in their own crew.
The state’s income tax structure also needs updating, Platt says.
“Taxes are a three-legged stool of income, property, and sales taxes,” he explains. “Legislators seem to think of sales taxes as a panacea.”
Instead, Platt says the state should install a progressive income tax that would support the needy by requiring those with more revenue to take on more of the tax burden.
“I’ve knocked on thousands of doors,” he says. “No one has complained about being burdened with excess state income taxes.”
Continued struggles in the education system should be addressed by uniform education and funding standards statewide, along with a new focus on neighborhood schools instead of magnet programs that Platt says take the best and the brightest students, leaving a void where talented students used to motivate others.
Regarding his primary opponent, Platt welcomes the competition.
“I’ve encouraged her to run,” he says of Peterson-Hutto. “A well-run primary in the absence of mudslinging can be beneficial not only for the candidate, but for the party.”