When Jane Ballard Dyer was 10, her father told her to climb two-dozen towering pine trees on their land in Easley, S.C., and tie a rope around each treetop. That was so he could pull the trees away from their house when he cut them down.
"I was terrified," said Dyer, 52. "But my dad said, 'You can do this.' "
Dyer was helping her family clear the land for a vegetable garden. But she says the experience also fed her spirit.
"When you do things you don't think you can do, it gives you confidence for the next thing. Then I become a pilot in the Air Force."
The Democrat is running against Republican Jeff Duncan and Constitution Party candidate John Dalen to replace Republican Gresham Barrett in the 3rd Congressional District.
For Duncan, a state legislator from Laurens County, his family's experience of moving repeatedly -- a dozen or so times throughout his youth -- because of his father's career in the textile industry, made him adaptable.
"Moving around as much as we did, I have an ability because I was forced to make friends easily and go into new situations with very little fear and adapt to new situations quickly," said Duncan, 44.
"So honestly, I'm pretty transparent. I'm just Jeff. What you see is what you get."
He said his background as a banker and owner of a real estate auction company taught him how to present his positions and speak well before a crowd.
"I'm definitely prepared for whatever comes my way," he said. "It just takes somebody that's confident in what they believe and someone who can articulate their positions."
Dalen, 53, who grew up in Detroit and moved to Westminster, S.C., in 2000, says his outlook was shaped by witnessing the civil rights movement and worrying that he would be sent to war in Vietnam.
"I remember watching black people walking down the street and getting beat up by police," said Dalen, adding that at the same time, "I did not feel the government was pursuing the Vietnam War with the intent to win."
In a debate on SCETV, Dyer and Duncan made their policy difference clear: Dyer supports Social Security; Duncan says the program should be phased out so that babies born now do not receive it when they are adults. Dyer says the U.S. Constitution should not be changed to eliminate the 14th Amendment; Duncan disagrees. Dyer says the nation cannot afford to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; Duncan says the tax cuts should be extended. Dyer says voters can decide term limits for officials by voting to re-elect them or not; Duncan says term limits are necessary to oust career politicians.
On Friday, Dalen acknowledged that he and Duncan largely agree on the issues. But, Dalen said, the problem is the party.
"It's the parties that are corrupted, controlled by special interest money, banks, corporations. ... If he's part of a corrupt party, he's not going to be effective," Dalen said.