Candidates vying for the vacated South Carolina House of Representatives District 14 seat have gathered twice over the past week in separate forums.
The first was held Thursday night in front of about 60 people at Cedarwood Community Church in Waterloo and involved candidates seeking both the Democratic and Republican nominations for the seat. The event was hosted by Connect Lake Greenwood and the Laurens and Greenwood chambers of commerce.
The second was held Monday for the four GOP candidates only and hosted by the Laurens County Republican Party at the Laurens Y where about 50 people were in attendance.
Republican candidates Grant Blair, Scott Horne, Stewart Jones and Michael Seymour answered questions and outlined their platforms at both events. Laurens Democrat Bobby Gregory, Sr. also attended the Connect Greenwood event, while Democrat Garrett McDaniel was unable to attend.
The candidates are vying for the nominations from their respective parties during a Feb. 19 special primary election. The election became necessary when former Rep. Mike Pitts retired at the end of 2018 citing health concerns.
The Laurens County Democratic Party will host a candidates’ forum for Gregory and McDaniel on Monday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Historic Laurens County Courthouse.
During Monday’s GOP forum, the candidates were each asked a variety of questions that ranged from constitutional fidelity to anti-abortion “personhood” bills and Laurens County School District 55’s defeated referendum for a new high school in 2017.
But not every candidate received the same questions from moderator Keith Tripp.
All four Republicans said they supported the GOP platform in the state.
Horne, a Ware Shoals businessman, said he is an advocate of personal responsibility and School District 51, which governs local schools in Ware Shoals. “District 51 is fighting for its life, and we’ve left them hanging in District 14,” Horne said. “There’s something wrong with that – nobody has lifted a hand to help.”
Jones said he would be the first to sign on to push a “personhood” law through the legislature if elected. Such an amendment would outlaw abortion for any reason in the state.
Jones touted his record on the Laurens County Council on issues such as financial transparency to groups at both forums. He also advocated term limits for legislators.
“I believe limiting individual power is the sole purpose of the Constitution,” he said.
Seymour also touted is own work on the Laurens County Soil and Water Conservation District, saying he has helped to bring more than $3.5 million to the district by working with state lawmakers and other agencies.
He also advocated for tax reform at the state level as well as for making strides in workforce development and education.
“We need to fully fund education and make sure that our money is being spent in the classroom,” Seymour said.
Grant Blair, a Ninety Six resident and ardent supporter of Connect Lake Greenwood, said he is concerned about the sustainability of the lake on the Laurens and Greenwood sides.
“We’ve had development, but our infrastructure hasn’t kept up, especially on the Laurens County side of the lake,” Blair said.
He also called for a “world-class” education system that would attract world-class businesses and industries to District 14 and “keep our young people here to grow the economy.”
Speaking Thursday night, Gregory said his candidacy is “for the people,” and he wants to protect lower-wage workers and seniors who are having trouble making ends meet from paycheck to paycheck.
He also said he wants to see teachers paid better.
“That’s what you have to do to get more quality teachers,” he said. “You have to pay them and keep classroom sizes down so they can teach.”