Jerry Bass wants people in Edgefield County's fastest-growing community to head to the polls informed.
The Merriwether community restaurant owner and political activist decided to set up a debate to allow voters to get to know candidates who want to represent the Merriwether and Westside district.
"This is something people need to know about," Mr. Bass said. "I thought a debate would be good for the community."
"Meet the Candidates," a political forum, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Merriwether Elementary School. Mr. Bass invited candidates running for sheriff, county council, school board, and state and national offices from his district.
A panel will ask the candidates questions, and, if time permits, the audience will be able to query them. Panel members are Pat Willis, staff writer for The Augusta Chronicle; Andy Ashurst, editor of The Citizen News; and First Citizens Bank City Executive John Timmerman.
The moderator will be Edgefield Town Attorney Greg Anderson.
Edgefield County Republican Party Chairman Frank Maurer said only one Republican candidate will attend the debate. Sheriff hopeful Marvin Easler will square off against Democrat Adell Dobey on law enforcement issues.
Joel Hudson, a Republican candidate for the county council District 5 seat, might be able to attend if he can leave work, Mr. Maurer said. If so, he'll face Democrat Paul Hammond.
District 6 school board member Kenneth Collier will square off against Sallie B. Cook on education issues. School board members run on nonpartisan tickets.
Democrat G.L. Brightharp, who is running for the congressional District 3 seat, is expected to attend, although his opposition, Republican Lindsey Graham, will not, because Congress is in session, Mr. Maurer said.
Democratic Sen. Tommy Moore's opposition for South Carolina Senate District 25 also had to bow out of the debate. Republican Robert Gossett has another engagement, the Republican Party chairman said.
"I wish I had been more involved in the planning of the debate," Mr. Maurer said. "It was announced to me. I didn't get to check with our candidates about their schedules."
Democratic Party Chairman Sam Crouch Jr. said he has no complaints about the event.
"We're ecstatic about the debate," he said. "All of our candidates indicated early on that they were eager to attend."
Mr. Crouch said he also is pleased with the debate format and its location.
"We're just hoping for a good crowd," he said.
County council candidate Paul Hammond said he also is urging voters to attend the political forum.
"I'm hoping people attend because, if they do, they'll be able to tell the difference between my leadership skills and Mr. Hudson's," Mr. Hammond said.
He said the three issues he would like to talk about are the needs for a high school in Merriwether, more county waterlines and more sheriff's deputies.
Mr. Hammond said turnout was low at the three previous speaking events he attended with other candidates. This debate is the first formal political forum, he said.
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or email@example.com.