Election season will kick off on Tuesday, September 1, in the Lowcountry, with the primary for the special election to fill the late Senator Clementa Pinckney’s seat. Earlier this summer, Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in his Charleston church. NEWS 3 meets the candidates.
“He was a true servant-service mentor of mine, and what I mean by that, he was a true representation to the people that needed the most help,” candidate Sheree Darien says of Pinckney.
Eleven democrats are running; one will get the nomination.
Sheree Darien is one who wants to carry-on Pinckney’s legacy, taking his seat as Senator for District 45. Darien says she had been appointed by Pinckney to serve on local college boards. This is why she says she is the best to advocate for better education across the Lowcountry in the six counties the district covers. Most of all, Darien says she will get more funding to schools.
“I actually left a very comfortable position with Regions Bank, to start a bank, to serve those that are left out of the financial mainstream, those that cannot get traditional banking services,” Darien uses as example.
Another candidate says wiser spending on roads is important.
“Before we start raising the gas tax, we need to take a look at money that’s already in the bank,” Kent Fletcher says.
Fletcher is a former banker, a Marine, who returned to the Lowcountry after serving overseas. He wants to unify the area in wake of the Charleston tragedy.
He believes there are still transportation woes which should be dealt with in the statehouse, “and start filling in some of these potholes that we have around the district, and start making certain that they’re safe, for not only the locals that drive them but for the tourists who come here every year,” he says.
“After the tragic events at Emanuel [AME Church in Charleston], I was of course, angered,” candidate Margie Bright Matthews says. “I was resolute that we needed something and someone to step forward.”
Matthews is one candidate who recalls working with Pinckney, offering her opinion, as an attorney, on legislation such as on body cameras. Matthews says there’s more to be done in District 45, and she wants to lead the way, filling the seat left open.
“I understand there’s been an issue with [the Department of Social Services]. I understand there’s been an issue with the criminal domestic violence issue. I understand there’s still an ongoing issue regarding teachers,” Matthews lists the work she believes should be done from the statehouse.
She says the common issue across the District is education, and teachers should be paid more.
“The standards need to be brought up, as well as, there’s a problem with employment,” she says.
Another candidate says education is important in building workers who can stay local.
“Well, I’m very passionate about early childhood education,” says candidate Chauncey Barnwell. “We have to make sure that our children are on a level playing field.”
The attorney says he was once inspired by Pinckney, when he met him as a reverend at Campbell AME Church in Bluffton.
Barnwell says legislation for better schooling can fix other issues within the district, too, like building the economy and cutting down on crime, “developing a workforce development program in our area, because poverty is the number one cause of violence,” he says.
Still, more candidates continued their campaign into Tuesday. John Edward Washington, of Colleton County, spoke with NEWS 3 on Tuesday morning. Washington is a minister in several churches across the district.
“The people need somebody that does not have a personal agenda, that’s somebody who’s concerned with them who wants to go into the senate with the people’s agenda,” Washington said.
State Representative Kenneth Hodges was still visiting from place to place across the district. He made stops in Walterboro, Charleston, and in Ridgeland on Tuesday. Others candidates, Korey Williams, did not respond to NEWS 3’s request for an interview.
The polls open in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton, Charleston, and Allendale counties at 7 a.m., and close at 7 p.m. Lowcountry reporter Ashleigh Holland will follow-up with profiles on more of the 11 candidates in the primary.