Candidate Forum: S.C. House & Senate

The 2012 general election is Nov. 6, and The Voice recently reached out to Fairfield County’s local candidates with a brief question-and-answer survey to help voters make a more informed choice.

This week, we present the candidates for the S.C. Senate, District 17 and S.C. House, District 41. Next week, The Voice will preview the candidates for Fairfield County Council and the Fairfield County School Board of Trustees.

Our questions were:

1. Education/Occupation.

2. What inspired you to run for office?

3. How have you been involved in the community in the past?

4. What do you see as the major issues facing (County Government/School District)?

5. What is your vision of where (County Government/School District) should be in the next four years?

6. If you are an incumbent: What impact have you made during your term(s) in office? If you are a challenger: What differentiates you from your opponent, and what impact do you expect to have?

 The candidates said:

 S.C. House District 41

(no incumbent)

 MaryGail Douglas (D)

 1. Attended public schools in Fairfield County and the USC School of Nursing.

2. I’ve always been interested in the workings of government and its people, especially Fairfield County. There is a sense that many in leadership roles do not listen to the people they represent.

3. After working at the local hospital, I became Director of the Fairfield County Council on Aging. It was during this time that I became more engaged in issues on a county and state-wide level. While serving as President of the S.C. Association of Council on Aging Directors, I learned more about the outsider-insider workings with legislation.

4. The County government is not responsive to the county stakeholders: the taxpayers. In the school district, we have too many chiefs, too much money going out and there seems to be no ‘gatekeeper;’ although I hear good things about the Superintendent. Board members are elected to develop policy, not micromanage the daily operations. Get out of the way and let him do the job you hired him to do.

5. For the County: Establish a rapport with the community that embraces needed changes in the county to make Fairfield County more progressive. Develop a written plan that includes more than buying up buildings and land. For the School District: Allow the current superintendent to develop a plan of action for the district. The school board would sign off on this plan, then provide the needed stools and support. Monitor and evaluate that plan at reasonable intervals.

6. I know more about my strengths and weaknesses than I do my opponent’s, so I will not begin to state the differences between us. I have the communication skills and the people skills to work for District 41. I am a listener and I will speak up on behalf of those I will represent, and I will do it in a way that is respectful and honorable for the entire District.

William Gray

William Gray (R)

 1. Bethel High School, Blythewood, S.C. 1966. Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.; B.A. Social Studies, 1970 University of South Carolina; Master’s of Art, Political Science 1972, and Master’s of Public Administration (M.P.A.) 1973.

2. I felt very deeply that I had much to offer to the citizens of S.C District 41, based on my education and experience. I want to be a servant of the people and help create a viable two-party system.

3. For many years I have fostered and fought for equality for all people. I helped to bring about the elected School Board in Fairfield, and served as chairman of that effort. I was one of three individuals to file the first lawsuit for Single Member Districts for County /council, although the suit failed (the lawyer brought suit against wrong organization. After a three-day hearing, the federal judge dismissed the suit). I was also instrumental in passing a bond issue for building the new high school.

4. Major issues are voter apathy, the educational system, economic development, Fairfield work force skill development and the racial divide between whites and blacks.

5. My vision is that we must be willing to plot a new course for the 21st century. To implement ways to foster economic development, to create sustainable economic development, to create an environment for work force development and working toward better race relationships. All of this begins with having a top-notch educational system.

6. My community and political involvement, my education and experience, and my relationships with the Republican leadership and, if elected, being able to hit the ground running.

 S.C. State Senate, District 17

Creighton Coleman

Creighton B. Coleman (D)


 1. Graduated from Mount Zion Elementary School in 1969, Winnsboro High School in 1974, The Citadel in 1979, University of South Carolina School of Law in 1985.

2. I have always been involved in politics and it is in my blood. Both in my law practice and in public office, I try to help people from all walks of life to solve their issues.

3. My involvement is not only in this community, but other communities as well: My commitment started at an early age and has continued throughout my life. I assisted my father in running for Congress and Solicitor when I was in elementary school. I assisted long-time Senator John A. Martin when he ran for public office by stuffing envelopes. I campaigned for Strom Thurmond in his many Senate elections and later worked for him in Washington, D.C., and Columbia, South Carolina. I campaigned for John Spratt in his many Congressional campaigns. I Campaigned for Republican Barney Giese for Solicitor in Richland and Kershaw counties. I have served as Chairman of the Fairfield County Democratic Party. I served in the S.C. House District 41 from 2001-2008. Since 2008, I have been serving District 17 in the S.C. Senate District 17. I also serve on the Vestry at St. Johns Episcopal Church, and I serve on the Public Defender Board for Chester and Fairfield counties and on the Congaree Land Trust Board.

4. The ability to attract businesses and industries for high-quality, good paying jobs. The current lack of a comprehensive long-range countywide development plan to accomplish the above. Providing the necessary stability and resources for the Fairfield County School District in order for all students to excel.

5. My vision is for the Fairfield County government to implement a long-term comprehensive strategic plan for attracting businesses and industries to our county that will offer high quality jobs to our citizens. I was successful in obtaining a $40,000 grant from Santee Cooper, and it is my continued vision for this county that county government will adopt and utilize the grant to accomplish this critical long-term planning.

My vision for the school district is that every student be given a top quality education from kindergarten through graduation, and that the resources provided to the school district be appropriately allocated to the classroom where the learning takes place.

Further, with regard to our county government, because of the nuclear reactors and the tax money generated now and in the future, I would like residential property taxes to be abolished and industrial property taxes (10 percent) to be greatly reduced. Think of the impact this will have in attracting people and industry.

6. Locally, I was instrumental in establishing the “C” Funds Committee, which reorganized the method by which funds are appropriated for roads and sidewalks. Previously, the decision to repave roads was made by one person; this reorganization now provides for decision making equally across the county by a committee, rather than one individual.

I was instrumental in getting the Senate to pass Bill #H 3720, the Data Center Tax Exemption bill. Because of this new tax structure, the State of South Carolina can now compete with our neighbors, North Carolina and Georgia, in recruiting large data centers that provide computer support for companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook.

In Chester County, I was able to help Chester Wood Products solve their smokestack issues, preventing a shutdown by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, thus preventing the loss of jobs for 400 employees. The company is now prospering and, in fact, has 40 new employees.

Over the past four years I have introduced more than 20 bills, one of which was #S 0717, which provided a sales tax incentive to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, a company that replicates natural disasters in order to study disaster building codes. In turn, the Institute invested $40,000,000 (40 million dollars) in our region and provided jobs for 17 employees. In addition, this company is featured often on the Weather Channel, offering excellent public relations for Chester County and South Carolina.

I introduced the Rural Infrastructural Bank Bill, a bill that helps rural South Carolina. This entity administers monies to rural counties for their infrastructure, such as water and sewer.

Realizing that Fairfield County’s water supply and infrastructure needs assistance, I contacted entities with expertise in this area. I contacted South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G), which has ongoing discussions with the Town of Winnsboro concerning providing water from V.C. Summer Lake. In addition, I contacted Santee Cooper, which has expertise in setting up joint water agencies in Clarendon County and Dorchester County.

I was appointed by the Republican Leadership to represent the S.C. Legislature on the Catawba Bi-State River Commission. This entity oversees the Catawba River chain in North Carolina through South Carolina.

I was appointed by the Republican Chairman of the Judiciary on the Family Court Study Committee to study custody issues in South Carolina’s Judiciary.

Robert Carrison

Robert Carrison (R)

1. College of Lake County, Grayslake Ill.; Air University, Maxwell Al.: Certified Avionics Tech.

Information Technology Technician, Fairfield County Government

2. I am running for Senate because I know I have much to offer in the effort to improve the state of our State. Hard times are upon us and we must lay the groundwork for a successful recovery. These efforts will require someone with a breadth and depth of life experiences and the time to dedicate to the effort. These efforts will take more than someone willing to serve. It will require someone willing to lead and someone unafraid of the challenges facing us for our generation, our children and grandchildren’s generations and those generations yet unborn.

3. I served four years on the Winnsboro Town Council and was voted Best of the Best Elected Official by the readers of The Herald Independent. I served for four years on the Winnsboro Downtown Development Assn. While on Town Council, we were able to secure the mineral rights to the Rion Quarry and build the infrastructure to supplement the Winnsboro Reservoir, which was crucial in assuring adequate water during our recent drought (not a perfect solution, but without that foresight we would have had a catastrophe). I also led the effort to implement the Downtown Streetscape, a facelift that was sorely needed for our main business district. I have years of experience in industrial and retail management and know how to build teams and get things done.

4. I think that the number one issue facing the 17th District is economic development, meaning specifically: JOBS! Jobs don’t magically appear. Employers build their businesses where the conditions for success are best. This means a well-trained work force is critical to recruitment of job creators. We can either import a work force or train one. My preference would be to train those people who are currently here; however, this will require that our system of education become nimble and responsive. I will author and/or support legislation that will lead to a state- of-the-art education system for our people, young and old alike. This would necessarily include vocational, technical and apprenticeship programs

5. I see a new reliance by our citizens on our State Government for services and leadership. I think the Federal Government’s role in our lives will be reduced primarily because the Federal Government has run up so much debt. We must manage affairs on a State level so our citizens will have confidence in the State’s ability to provide essential services, especially law enforcement and emergency services

6. I am a Constitutional Conservative, I don’t spend money I don’t have. I will not author or support legislation that creates new boards, committees, commissions or any additional layer of Government.

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