Originally created 11/05/99

Sutherland throws hat in council race



AIKEN -- A not-so-familiar face with a familiar last name in hometown politics has decided to run for the empty seat on the Aiken City Council.

Without fanfare and faxes announcing his candidacy, Jim Sutherland quietly walked into Republican headquarters Thursday and paid $50 to enter the race. He faces banker Pat Cunning in the GOP primary Dec. 28. No one else has openly talked about entering the race, but filing for primaries remains open until noon Monday. Petition candidates have until Nov. 17 to collect signatures.

Both men who have filed so far are vying for the seat left vacant by veteran Councilman Robert "Skipper" Perry, who recently was elected to the General Assembly. After Mr. Perry was elected to that position, Mr. Sutherland said, there was no doubt he would run for the at-large council seat.

This is Mr. Sutherland's debut in the political foray for an elective office. But he has worked behind the scenes for years helping his wife, Rebekah, in her unsuccessful election bids -- two for the state House of Representatives and one for South Carolina education superintendent.

Mr. Sutherland is an Aiken County contact for presidential hopeful Steve Forbes, a millionaire businessman who has never held elective office.

Shortly after adding his name to a short list of candidates, Mr. Sutherland said if elected, he would "represent the little guy and be a voice for those who aren't being heard." As for a party platform, that's a work in progress, he said.

His views on some city issues are well known, however. Mr. Sutherland vehemently opposed the accommodations and hospitality taxes put in place earlier this year. The taxes on lodging and establishments that serve food are earmarked for special projects, including the expansion of Citizens Park and the construction of a tennis center.

"So many times, elected officials don't listen to their constituents and what they want. I hope to change that," Mr. Sutherland said.

Mr. Sutherland is an environmental specialist at Westinghouse Savannah River Co., where he has worked for 20 years -- partly in Aiken and partly in Virginia, where the Sutherlands are from.

Mr. Sutherland writes an environmental column for the Edgefield Advertiser, a weekly conservative newspaper.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.