COLUMBIA --- Democrats lost something precious last year, and they want it back.
It's the 25th state Senate seat, stretching across all of Edgefield County and parts of Saluda, McCormick and Aiken counties.
On Nov. 4, voters will choose between incumbent state Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, and his Democratic challenger Greg Anderson, also of Edgefield.
In 2007 Mr. Massey defeated state Rep. Bill Clyburn by 138 votes out of more than 14,000 cast in a special election to replace Democrat Tommy Moore, who resigned after serving 25 years.
Mr. Massey is the first Republican to represent the district for as long as anyone can remember. And Democrats inside and outside the district are eyeing it as one of the few seats that could change from red to blue.
"We want it back," said Jerry Sundt, Aiken County Democratic Party spokesman.
But while Mr. Anderson and Mr. Massey are from different parties, in some ways they are very similar.
Both are lawyers. Both say they want to fight for the district's small towns. Both support drilling off the South Carolina coast. Both say the 16-cent gas tax used to maintain the state's roads and bridges could be supplemented by taking funds from other places in the budget. Both of their campaigns have raised about $50,000.
However, Mr. Massey, 33, has set himself apart from Mr. Anderson, 53, and his colleagues in the Legislature by pushing a reform agenda, taking aim at earmark spending and the practice of allowing lawmakers to cast votes by an anonymous voice method.
Mr. Massey says he'd like to return to Columbia to continue challenging the political establishment.
"The problem is that our system is so antiquated that sometimes you've got to tackle things that aren't very sexy in order to get to the root cause of the problems," he said.
Mr. Massey says his youth gives him an advantage.
"This is a tough process," he said. "If we're really going to make a lot of significant changes, it will take a lot of hard work and energy to do that."
Mr. Anderson points to his deep Edgefield roots and his work as the legal counsel for the Edgefield County School District and small municipalities.
"I have more experience in dealing with day-to-day problems than my opponent does," he said. "I understand the needs and concerns of people in this district."
WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND
State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, faces Democratic challenger Greg Anderson on Nov. 4.
Q: Legislative leaders have promised to make energy a major issue in the next General Assembly. What is the best way to approach the state's future energy needs?
Mr. Anderson: "If something were proposed, I would obviously look at it. But that is more of a federal issue than a state issue at this time. ... My concern is with representing the people in this district and the needs that they have from state government."
But he also says he supports green initiatives and tax incentives for businesses that innovate.
Mr. Massey: "We can't just say drill and that's it. We've got to invest in the research and development of alternative energy sources. We have a huge advantage right here to do that. The Savannah River Site is right down the road." Mr. Massey says more state dollars should be directed toward alternative fuel programs at The Center for Hydrogen Research, The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, Clemson University, University of South Carolina and South Carolina State University.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the district?
Mr. Anderson: "We're a rural district, and we need to get the attention of the South Carolina Legislature to take care of things like jobs, health care and public schools. We do not get our fair share of the tax dollars."
Some mandates work well in big cities but not in rural communities, Mr. Anderson said. For instance, he said, a few years ago the state required school buses to be kept in a central location. That created headaches for rural bus drivers who could no longer take buses home with them and had to spend extra time traveling to the bus depot.
Mr. Massey: "Rural communities in general are struggling, I think, because so much population is going to the coastal areas or the Upstate. What that means is those areas have more representation. Those folks are good people and have fine ideas, but most of them don't know anything about living in rural areas. ... We struggle a lot of times with things like simple infrastructure and having good, clear water get to everybody."
Q: The flat gas-tax revenues are not keeping up with the cost to maintain our roads and bridges. Do you think we need to change the way we fund road maintenance?
Mr. Anderson: "There needs to be some cost shifting in the state budget to provide more funds to the highway department." Money could be moved out of pet projects, such as the state's competitive grant program.
Mr. Massey: "We need to look into the money that the Department of Transportation spends, because if there's waste anywhere, it's coming from the Department of Transportation. ... There is a lot of talk about wanting to raise the gas tax or put tolls on all the roads. But I think we should look first at the money that we have."
-- Morris News Service