A Senate seat was left empty when Clementa Pinckney was gunned-down in his Charleston church in June; but now District 45 in the Lowcountry has a new voice, Walterboro Attorney Margie Bright Matthews fills his seat in January.
Matthews was recently sworn in. She spoke with NEWS 3 for a one-on-one sit-down interview, discussing what she hopes to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session.
Matthews still keeps Pinckney on her mind, when discussing the path that led her to the Senate.
“He has a great legacy. The only thing I can do is try to build on it,” Matthews says, “and try to chart my own course.”
It’s still surreal to her, to be one of two women in the Senate. She calls it an honor to represent the district which spans Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton, Charleston, and Allendale counties.
As she marvels at her family’s support for her, she remarks at the encouragement she gets from her elderly mother.
“Not only me being African American, but being a woman, that meant a lot to her, and she said ‘I know you can do it,’” she says.
Matthews is working on at least two pieces of legislation she plans to pre-file in December. For one, she wants to give those elderly in places like nursing home easier access to the court system. Then, there’s the road repairs debate left unfinished from the last session. She wants roads fixed.
“It seems though, Ashleigh, because of the flooding and what we’ve had to go through, I’m going to have to now concentrate a lot on infrastructure,” she says.
With flooding deteriorating roads in the South Carolina Midlands, Matthews says it’s time to seize the opportunity to work together across the state to get fixes in the Lowcountry, too.
“It is not enough for South Carolinians to sit back and be happy that we have the lowest gas tax in the nation, but yet our roads are crumbling around us,” she says.
She also hopes to please the Pinckney family, who she is long-time friends with. “The entire time, they’ve been very, very supportive,” she says.
She is already planning to run for reelection in the future, so she can get more done, expecting things to move slowly in government.