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.