Races on the Line in Primary

WINNSBORO (June 9, 2016) – Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the statewide primaries and Fairfield County voters could effectively decide a number of November races on the Democratic dominated ballot.

The District 5 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives will be the only Republican contest on the ballot as incumbent Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land faces a challenge from Ray Craig of Lake Wylie.

State Senate

In the Democratic race for the District 17 seat in the State Senate, incumbent Creighton Coleman faces a challenge on two fronts – from Michael Fanning of Great Falls and from Morgan Bruce Reeves of Winnsboro.

“It is imperative that District 17 continues on its path of job creation without tax increases,” Coleman, a Winnsboro native and local attorney, told The Voice this week. “As you well know, this district encompasses Fairfield and Chester county and southern York County. Some parts of the district are doing better than others, but I am determined to move the district forward by creating the environment that will allow all of South Carolina to prosper.”

Coleman, 60, has served in the State Senate for eight years, and previously served eight years in the State House of Representatives. Among his accomplishments, Coleman cited the creation of the I-77 Alliance, which initially included Fairfield, Chester and York counties and later added Richland and Lancaster counties. Coleman also secured money to bring the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the Department of Natural Resources into a revitalization project in Great Falls that is tied in with the relicensing of Duke Energy dams along the Catawba River.

Coleman also helped save Fairfield Memorial Hospital “tens of thousands of dollars,” he said, by working with the Department of Revenue to waive penalties and interest on money the hospital owed in back taxes. He has also prompted the Department of Transportation to review and improve dangerous intersections, such as Salem Crossroads and the Highway 213-Jackson Creek Road junction, he said.

“I want to continue with good common sense legislation such as the Abandoned Building Bill, which creates incentives for developers to rehab abandoned buildings by creating tax incentives,” Coleman said. “My job is to help people navigate the state government and help our laws be more people-friendly.”

Reeves, 57, operates a clearing and grading company in Winnsboro. Reeves said his primary goal is to eliminate real estate property taxes and replace that revenue through an increase in the sales tax.

“I want to do away with real estate property tax,” Reeves said. “I want to put that on a referendum.”

Reeves was unclear on how much the sales tax would increase in order to make up for the property tax revenue.

“It’s whatever the numbers would be,” he said. “I’ll talk about that later.”

Reeves said in Fairfield County “we live like a Third World country.” To remedy that, he promises to build a new hospital, more libraries and a YMCA. He also vowed to build a new medical center and a YMCA in Great Falls, and a new hospital in Chester County. The revenue for these projects, he said, would be generated by the sales tax.

Attempts to reach Fanning before press time were unsuccessful.

Fanning is the Executive Director of the Olde English Consortium, a 501(c)3 non-profit that, according to its website, is an “educational collaborative seeking to promote excellence in education through collaboration.” The OEC holds professional development seminars at all levels for member districts, facilitates the Academic Challenge student competition and hosts Junior Scholar Days. It also aids in professional networking for a range of fields, from Fine Arts to Finance Directors.

Paid membership of the OEC include the school districts of Chester, Clover, Lancaster, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Rock Hill, York, Cherokee County and Fort Mill, as well as Winthrop University and USC-Lancaster.

According to records available on the ProPublica.org website, the OED in 2014 collected $132,265 in revenue in the form of “contributions.” Fanning drew 67.9 percent of that revenue – $83,053 – as “executive compensation.” In 2013, contributions totaled $112,890, of which 72.1 percent, or $91,615, went to Fanning’s salary. In 2012, the OEC brought in $104,626 in contributions and $20,080 in “other revenue,” for a total of $124,716. Fanning’s salary in 2012 represented 64.6 percent, or $100,306.

While noting there was nothing illegal about how the OEC’s pay scale is structured, Sen. Coleman questioned the ethics of profiting from taxpayer dollars.

“This is certainly not how taxpayer money should be used,” Coleman said. “It should be spent on teacher pay raises, classroom costs, etc.”

Sheriff’s Race

Incumbent Sheriff Will Montgomery faces a primary challenge from Marvin Willis.

Montgomery said that during his two years in office drug arrests are up and the crime rate has dropped. More training is now available to employees, he said, and more deputies are on patrol in communities. The Sheriff’s Office is in the process of creating a K-9 unit, Montgomery said, and all deputies have been issued body cameras.

“These are just a few of the changes that we’ve made,” Montgomery said, “and I look forward to continuing our progress in the right direction for the future of our County.”

Willis, 45, is an officer with the City of Columbia Police Department, where he has served for the last five years. Prior to that, he was a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy for nearly 10 years. He has lived on Cook Road in Ridgeway for the last five months, but has called Fairfield County home for nearly two years, he said.

“I want to transform the Sheriff’s Office into a transparent, modern, 21st century law enforcement agency, where all the input matters,” Willis said. “I want to improve the quality of life of all the employees at the Sheriff’s Office and for all citizens of Fairfield County.”

Clerk of Court

Betty Jo Beckham is retiring at the end of the year, opening the field to Judy Bonds, 61, of Winnsboro, and Dorothy Belton, 51, of Ridgeway. Bonds has worked in the Clerk of Court’s office for 30 years, spending the last 15 of those years as Deputy Clerk of Court.

“I know how to run the job,” Bonds said. “I’ll be ready to go from day one. I won’t have to be trained. We’re also the register of deeds, so we have to know a lot in our office. It’s a lot to know, and I know it.

“We have a reputation for being one of the best Clerk of Court offices in the state,” Bonds said. “I’m proud of that, and I want to keep that reputation.”

Belton is a contract paralegal who works with law firms throughout the U.S. She has 20 years of experience in the legal field, she said, and 18 years of running a law office. Her primary objective, she said, is to implement an electronic court filing system in Fairfield County.

“I understand the value of people working together,” Belton said. “I want to bring the Clerk of Court’s office into the 21st century.”

Coroner

Barkley Ramsey, 52, is seeking his third term as County Coroner and he faces opposition from Chris Hill, 42, a Fairfield County Sheriff’s deputy.

Ramsey was a deputy coroner for nine years before taking the top spot after Joe Silvia retired in 2009. He has also been Chief of the Lebanon Fire Department since 1984 and of the Rescue Squad for nearly 10 years. Among his accomplishments, Ramsey noted the opening of the new Coroner’s Office on S. Congress Street, the new morgue and a new evidence room. Ramsey has four deputies, and during his tenure all four now receive a monthly stipend, he said.

“I have a great working relationship with the Highway Patrol, other law enforcement agencies, other county coroners and EMS,” Ramsey said. “I require all my deputies to have their certified hours of training, plus their first responder certification.”

Hill has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 16 years and is currently the Warrant Supervisor. He is a certified interior structure firefighter, formerly served on the Rescue Squad, and has been in the funeral service for 20 years. He is currently working on his apprenticeship as an embalmer.

“I want to make a difference at the Coroner’s Office,” Hill said. “I feel like Fairfield County can get better than what it’s getting. I’m a young guy and I’ve got some new ideas.”

Among those new ideas, he said, are the Care Program, where volunteers can assist at death scenes, and an outreach program that would partner with other agencies to demonstrate the consequences of drinking and driving or texting and driving at local schools.

State House

Also on the Democratic Primary ballot is the District 41 State House seat. MaryGail Douglas, the incumbent, is running unopposed.