Both candidates for South Carolina House District 81 hope voters will turn out today.
But they know it’s a runoff, it’s supposed to rain, and only 9.4 percent of Aiken voters showed up to vote in the primary.
That’s 9,994 out of 107,053 registered voters in the county, according to the State Elections Commission website.
Republicans KT Ruthven and Bart Blackwell have been campaigning anew since June 14, when Ruthven finished on top in the primary with 1,357 votes, or 43 percent, and Blackwell came in second with 848 votes, or 27 percent.
Sometimes, Blackwell said, people he’d meet while campaigning would be surprised that the election wasn’t over.
Both men have strong ideas about what they would do if elected, and both have their reasons for encouraging
voters to choose them and not the other guy.
“The voters have a choice between two candidates, both with political records to run on,” Ruthven said Monday. “I have fought the ‘Flavor of the Month’ taxes imposed by government. My opponent has been on the other side of
Blackwell, the president of B&S Machine Tool Inc. and an Air Force veteran, cited his experience as a key difference between him and Ruthven.
“I have three decades of professional experience,” Blackwell said. “I have been living the issues manufacturers and businesses deal with every day, and I have intimate knowledge of those issues because I’m on the receiving end of decisions made in Columbia and Washington.”
Blackwell’s top priorities are fixing roads and infrastructure and ethics reform. Both got some attention in “the eleventh hour” of the recently concluded legislative session, but there’s still “lots to be done,” Blackwell said.
For example, a funding stream for infrastructure is crucial, he said. He favors an approach similar to that proposed by Gov. Nikki Haley, which would raise the gasoline tax but offset it with a break on income tax for state residents.
“I am committed to reforming the South Carolina Department of Transportation and working with members of both the state House and Senate to pass a highway funding plan that fixes our roads and provides sustainable funding for future maintenance,” he said on his website.
Ruthven, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker and a former county GOP chairman, has pledged that he will “stand strong against all tax increases, including the gas tax, and will energetically pursue real reform to our state tax code.”
Ruthven also backs ethics reform and hopes to improve economic development in the state.
“The current regulatory system in our state constantly frustrates business growth, especially for small business owners,” he said on his website. “It must change.”
Blackwell said one of the biggest challenges for his business, which does custom machining and fabrication for industries, is finding skilled labor.
He favors boosting the economy through technical education, “training our young people and retraining our workforce” to provide workers for the state’s growing industries, including Bridgestone and Boeing.