AIKEN -- With only one Aiken City Council member facing opposition in Tuesday's Republican primary, the spotlight is on the "clean campaign" between incumbent Karen Papouchado and challenger Don Sprawls for the District 3 seat.
To set the stage, Mr. Sprawls asked his opponent last month to sign a "clean campaign pledge" to prevent any mud-slinging. Mrs. Papouchado signed it and said it never occurred to her to campaign any other way.
"In a small town, you can still do things amicably," she said.
Mrs. Papouchado, who is seeking a third term on the council, says she originally ran for council eight years ago to protect neighborhoods and historic places, which remain her central focus.
"I have done my best to protect Kalmia Hill and Hayne Avenue from inappropriate development, and I will protect all other neighborhoods as diligently," she said. "If you look at the Planning Commission votes, on which Mr. Sprawls (has) served, we differ on how we have voted on developmental issues."
A local businessman and owner of Sprawls Service & Sound for 22 years, Mr. Sprawls is a captain in Aiken's volunteer firefighting squad and he has been a member of the city's Planning Commission for two years. He says he sympathizes with developers because of all the obstacles they face.
"I think it should be easier and less restrictive for a person to develop," he said. "We have no incentives for anybody to start a business here with taxes, permits, user fees and licenses."
"In my opinion, if you have a developer who meets all the requirements the city laid out, then you shouldn't stop them from being able to develop their property. I'm not against zoning or restrictions, but I think we need a little more leeway."
Contributions to Mr. Sprawls' race suggest that his views have pleased some developers. Local developer Weldon Wyatt and his wife donated $2,000 -- nearly a quarter of Mr. Sprawls' total campaign funds.
Other developers, including Ronny B. Bolton, who also heads the city's Planning Commission, contributed $250 to the election. And Jerry Waters and his wife, a Realtor, gave a combined $500.
Mr. Sprawls said he had a "wide variety of individual contributors who wanted to see some new blood on the council."
Other than developers, the list of individual or group contributors to his campaign consists of area businesspeople.
Lynn Zody, owner of Burger King, donated $500, Environmental Landscape Management gave $500 and G & G Construction donated $200.
Mrs. Papouchado says she finances her own campaign, "mainly because I do not ever want to be perceived as being beholden to a special interest group." Records show that she contributed $3,300 to her campaign.
Although she says she is not "anti-business," she believes Mr. Sprawls and "his group" think she's not supporting small businesses, and "that's not true."
"Everybody who knows me, knows I'm pro-business because all small businessmen try to stick together," Mr. Sprawls said. "I would definitely say I'm more pro-business than she is."
Mrs. Papouchado said she'll hold the line on taxes and user fees, another big issue in the campaign.
Mr. Sprawls said that if he is elected, he will work to give the citizens of Aiken relief from those taxes. Both are against video poker.
Neither candidate claims to be a politician.
"If I would have found somebody to run in my place this time, I wouldn't have run again," Mrs. Papouchado said. "I'm not a politician.
She said she ran again because, "I've had eight years of change. Why not have a couple years where I can do some things that might not be as high profile, but personally satisfying to me?"
Mr. Sprawls says he's not a politician, but he's got "22 years experience working with people, running a business, making a payroll and doing what it takes to make a living."
"I feel like I relate to a broader section of the community, other than certain specialty groups. I like to be friends with everybody and I believe everybody should be a part of the city."
The winner of Tuesday's primary will likely win the Nov. 2 general election because no Democrat or Libertarian has filed for the office.
The remaining two incumbents, Democrat Beverly Clyburn and Republican Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, are unopposed.
Katie Throne at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen PapouchadoMarried: Lou
Children: Marc, 17
Lived in Aiken: 22 years
Occupation: Provide training and technical support for The Health Forum, a San Francisco-based company that provides software aimed at any group who wants to do work for their community.
Previous political office: Eight-year city council member, District 3
Don SprawlsMarried: Billie
Children: Laurie Ann
Lived in Aiken: 23 years
Occupation: Owner of Sprawls Service & Sound
Previous political office: Two years on the city's Planning Commission