Roads, leadership top SC candidate issues

State infrastructure, leadership rank high

Fixing South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges and providing better leadership are foremost in the minds of North Augusta-area candidates for the state Legislature.


Three of four hopefuls in the state House District 81 race named infrastructure as the top priority in their replies to questionnaires from The Augusta Chronicle.

“I think everyone would agree that our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair,” said Jeremy O’Donnell. “A modern, well-maintained infrastructure is critical for future economic growth in our community.”

Chris Austin and Bart Black­well echoed the sentiment.

“This problem only gets worse and more costly the longer we wait,” Blackwell said.

To address the problem, Aus­tin called for abolishing the state infrastructure bank, making the state Department of Trans­por­ta­tion a Cabinet agency under the governor and raising the state gas tax while cutting the state income tax. Blackwell and O’Donnell also support reforming the Transpor­ta­tion Department and seeking more revenue sources for infrastructure.

K.T. Ruthven, the fourth candidate for the District 81 seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Don Wells, named “fixing our broken and ineffective government” as the biggest issue facing South Carolina, and he proposed “comprehensive ethics reform including term limits, mandatory income disclosures, and independent commission to review ethics violations.”

Similarly, Shane Massey, the state Senate incumbent in Dis­trict 25, labeled leadership as the state’s top challenge.

“To improve South Carolina, we need leaders who will break from the status quo and do the hard work necessary to solve hard problems,” he said.

His opponent, businessman John Pettigrew, said there’s too much talk and not enough action in Columbia.

“For the past few years our senators have talked about roads, talked about ethics reform, talked about improving education, talked about the $21 billion pension deficit, talked about strengthening gun rights and many other issues,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Senate has done very little or nothing about them.”

Massey said his recent election to Senate majority leader would be useful in addressing leadership problems, while Pettigrew called for term limits to eliminate “career politicians.”

“I will limit my Senate service to no more than eight years,” he said.

Economic development and repairing Langley Dam were top issues identified by the three candidates for the Ai­ken County Council Dis­trict 3 seat, held by the retiring LaWana Mc­Ken­zie.

Economic development means focusing on “the entire spectrum, from quality of life issues, recreation and emergency services to county services and low taxes,” said Don Turno.

Danny Feagin said he would concentrate on ways to add jobs and would “establish a plan to clean up old abandoned areas as funds are available.”

Earl Clinton wants to fix the dam and make sure the Horse Creek wastewater facility is properly upgraded and thinks his background makes him well-suited to serve on the county council.

“I have been on sports teams and sales teams my entire life, and you learn to work with others to accomplish goals,” he said.

In the race for county treasurer, incumbent Jason Goings said he has improved the office’s operations and reduced fees it charges residents. His opponent, Rob­ert Bodie, said he would work to expand services to other municipalities in the county.

Incumbent Coroner Tim Carlton said his office’s workload has increased dramatically over the years and while its “dedicated staff” has kept up, it needs more help. He would like to see morgue facilities at Aiken Regional Medical Centers upgraded and noted that he is the county’s most well-trained “death investigator.”

Challenger Thomas Scott is concerned about the numbers of deaths in wrecks, particularly among young people, and pledged to promote awareness and prevention.

“I realize that we cannot stop all accidents, but with aggressive prevention programs, accidental deaths can be greatly reduced,” he said.

Clay Adams said there should be better cooperation with law enforcement, county government and state agencies. He listed 15 years of crime scene and forensic investigative experience.

Aiken County Elections: County Council District 3
Aiken County Elections: Treasurer
Aiken County Elections: Coroner
Aiken County Elections: SC Senate District 25
Aiken County Elections: U.S. House District 2
Aiken County Elections: SC House District 81

Aiken County voters can settle several political contests in Tuesday’s primaries, including an Aiken County Council seat, state Senate and House posts, and the county offices of treasurer and coroner. In those races, Republican incumbents have drawn opposition within their own party, or someone vacated a seat and more than one Republican is seeking it. In another race, voters will choose between two Democrats vying to challenge GOP Rep. Joe Wilson in the fall.


State Treasurer Curtis Loftis has endorsed John Pettigrew in the race for state Senate District 25. “As you know, I work hard to protect your money, and that’s a job that is getting more and more difficult every day. I need help, especially in the state Senate. I need senators with character and the strength to stand up for you and against the establishment. John Pettigrew is that man,” Loftis said. Pettigrew also has been endorsed by the National Association of Gun Owners.

Shane Massey, the incumbent being challenged in the state Senate District 25 race, has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. He also has endorsements from South Carolina Citizens for Life, the South Carolina Farm Bureau, the S.C. Jobs Coalition, Conservation Voters of South Carolina, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee, and the South Carolina Club for Growth.

The South Carolina Democratic Party has endorsed 2nd Congressional District candidate Arik Bjorn. The request for an endorsement came from Aiken County Democratic Party Executive Committee member Peggy Franklin. Bjorn also has been endorsed by the state AFL-CIO, the state Green Party and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders national delegates within the district.

– James Folker, staff writer