Originally created 10/24/98

Hopeful coming to area



AIKEN -- Democrat Jim Hodges is bringing his campaign for governor to Aiken today.

The candidate will appear in an hour-long public forum, beginning at 3 p.m., "to meet and greet" and impart his plan for improved education in South Carolina, said Charles Staples, chairman of the county Democratic Party.

Mr. Hodges will also take questions from the audience about his education plan and other issues in his campaign to unseat Republican Gov. David Beasley.

A Libertarian candidate, Timothy Moultrie, is also on the ballot.

The race has been contentious so far. Mr. Hodges is calling for new funding sources to improve education, and he thinks one of them should be a lottery like Georgia's. But his campaign contributor list is heavily sprinkled with video poker operators, who are angry at Mr. Beasley for trying to put them out of business. So the governor says that a vote for Mr. Hodges is a vote to let organized gambling control state government.

The stop in Aiken comes two days after the Beasley campaign filed a lawsuit against two video poker magnates who are running a "Ban Beasley" promotion, blaming him for the quality of public schools.

The campaign is not suing Mr. Hodges but does say the poker millionaires coordinated their efforts with his to influence the outcome of the governor's race -- a claim that Mr. Hodges says is not true.

The local forum at the Aiken County Council Chambers on the western end of Richland Avenue will give voters a chance to hear Mr. Hodges' side of that story and learn more about other issues in the race.

Mr. Staples said the local Democratic Party sent out 2,000 invitations to the event, but it's not necessary to have an invitation to attend.

Margaret N. O'Shea can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.