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Youthful Curry taking on Smith's experience in race

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COLUMBIA --- It's a tough time to be a gas-station owner. But it's an even tougher time to be a gas-station owner who's running for public office.

"We've had to deal with the recent ordeal with the gas-gouging accusations," said Russell Curry, the Democrat challenging state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, in the November election.

"It's kind of taken a toll as far as me running for the House seat," said Mr. Curry, who owns Curgin's Corner in Graniteville. Last month the S.C. Attorney General launched a crackdown on station owners who were inflating gas prices after storms halted oil production and prices jumped. But owning a gas station is just one of the quirks Mr. Curry contends with in his bid to unseat Mr. Smith, a retired minister, who has held the seat since 1989 and chairs the House Ethics Committee.

At 29, Mr. Curry is nearly one-third the age of his 75-year-old opponent.

That's a challenge, acknowledges Mr. Curry, but he thinks it's time to let someone else give it a go.

But Mr. Smith cautions against kicking someone out of office just for the sake of electing a new face.

"What kind of change are you making, if you change?" said Mr. Smith, a retired letter carrier. "Is it for the betterment of the community, or is it tax, tax, tax?"

Besides, Mr. Smith added, "Whatever age you are, it's the commitment and dedication to serving the people. I believe the public will say there is no more dedicated a public servant than Roland Smith."

WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND

State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, faces Democratic challenger Russell Curry in the Nov. 4 election to represent the 84th House District. The district runs from the Savannah River Site around Jackson and up to the Edgefield County line.

Q: What's the biggest challenge facing the 84th District, and how would you address it?

Mr. Smith: Fixing funding shortfalls for K-12 education and infrastructure, and creating jobs are the most urgent issues. He says he would use his influence as chairman of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee to advocate for a larger education budget. In addition, he says he'd work to remove mandates that prevent money from being allocated to classroom instead of administration. Regarding job creation, Mr. Smith says he would continue to push for economic development similar to the growth of Bridgestone Firestone and Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Mr. Curry: Lack of jobs is the most pressing problem, Mr. Curry says. He says he would court large companies aggressively and work harder to secure tax breaks for them.

Q: What can be done at the state level to help unincorporated communities like those in Horse Creek Valley grow?

Mr. Smith: He says he's helped steer $1.4 million to Aiken County communities to improve the roadways, and he'd keep it up if returned to office. The funds came from competitive grants, private contributions and state and federal sources. The money has paid for turn lanes, traffic lights, resurfacing highways and repairing underground pipes throughout the district.

Mr. Curry: He says he would specifically ask for infrastructure grants for the district's unincorporated communities, despite state requirements for funding, which make the unincorporated communities ineligible for many awards.

-- Morris News Service


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