Ever since the tragic Charleston church shooting that killed Senator Clementa Pinckney, and eight other church members at Emanuel AME, a dark drape has hung over Pinckney’s desk in the Senate chamber. Now, an election is set to fill the seat. Twelve people are running for the job. There are 11 on the democrat ticket, and one republican. NEWS 3 is following each candidate, for what viewers need to know before the vote.
Running as a democrat are Chauncy Barnwell, of Hardeeville, William Bowman, of Walterboro, Sheree Darien, of Ridgeland, Kent Fletcher, of Bluffton, Libbie Henry Green, of Yemassee, current State Representative Kenneth Hodges, of Green Pond in Colleton County, Keith Horton, of Ridgeland, Margie Bright Matthews, of Walterboro, Richmond Truesdale, of Hollywood in Charleston County, John Edward Washington, of Yemassee, and Korey Williams, of Early Branch in Hampton County. Al Fernandez, of Garnett in Jasper County, runs as the only republican candidate.
The eleven candidates debated in Charleston on Wednesday night, all except for Horton.
Voters will select the democrat nominee on September 1, 2015.
“I’ll work for the district, and the people of the district, and not have any self, any special interest group I’m working with,” says Horton.
Horton says he is the best candidate, because he would represent the people of District 45, rather than himself. His main concern is for public education. Horton believes funding classrooms and teachers would be the most important thing to come out of the statehouse for the district. The retired Hilton Head Island firefighter says education is the foundation, and improvements would lead to social improvements, less crime in Jasper County, and economic development.
Because District 45 covers a huge area to include Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton, Charleston, and Allendale counties, Horton says he would hold town hall meetings with citizens and local government from each area. William Bowman plans to do the same.
Bowman also agrees education is key. He says he is the best candidate, because of his experience serving on the Colleton County School Board since 2008, “because school systems are very, very vast as far as their public relations, you know,” he says. “We deal with students, parents, we deal with taxes, we deal with allocations and millages.”
Bowman put his name in the hat for Senate in April, before the Charleston tragedy brought the renewed push for candidates to run. He believes better education opens the door for more economic development in the Lowcountry.
Libbie Green is running, also for education improvement, and believes it is the common factor tying all counties within the district together. Green believes she is best to fill the seat, because she has seen first hand the difference an education can make in one’s life.
“I’m the youngest of ten children, the first to earn a college degree, the only to earn a college degree,” Green says.
Aside from education, she lists infrastructure at the top of her priorities, should she serve as the district’s senator.
“We need to improve our infrastructure. We have businesses willing to come to the area. We have businesses who are here willing to expand. But we need to have the infrastructure to support those businesses,” she says.
After the September 1 primary, the special election will be held on October 20, 2015. Stay with NEWS 3 for more candidate profiles to come.