Originally created 05/05/02

Nudging creates contest for seat



AIKEN - It took a little friendly nudge, but just before the filing deadline the race for House District 86 became the only contested House seat this year for Republicans in Aiken County.

Aiken commercial builder Jim Stewart joined Russ Ferrara, an engineer at the Savannah River Site, in the GOP primary.

Rep. Charles Sharpe, R-Wagener, who has represented District 86 since 1985, is running for state agriculture commissioner.

Mr. Stewart said a call from Mr. Sharpe helped him decide.

"He is the one who kind of pushed me over the edge as far as running," Mr. Stewart said. "When he called me and asked me if I'd run, and told me he would support me, I knew that was a pretty good indication I could win."

Mr. Stewart also has the support of Rep. Skipper Perry, R-Aiken; Aiken County Sheriff Howard Sellers; and Aiken County District 7 Councilman Rick Osbon.

Those names don't worry Mr. Ferrara.

From 1993 to 1997, he held Mr. Osbon's seat on the council and says his name is just as well-known in District 86 as Mr. Stewart's.

"My intention is to work with the people," Mr. Ferrara said. "I've been getting out in the district, talking to farmers (and others) and finding out what their interests are.

The race for District 86 will be the only contested House race on the November ballot in Aiken County. Assistant Solicitor Everett Chandler is the Democratic candidate.

Like the other hopefuls, Mr. Chandler says he will be a servant of the people if elected.

"I think you need to be honest with the people. Tell them what you can do. That's what I'm doing," he said.

That's why Mr. Chandler says he isn't taking a position on the debate over nuclear-waste shipments slated to arrive soon at SRS. South Carolina House members don't have much control over the issue.

Mr. Ferrara, on the other hand, says state House members can bring a voice to the political debate, even if state-level legislation might not have a direct influence. His 18-year stint at SRS would bring some much-needed context to that debate, he said.

While the waste should not stay in South Carolina, he said, the site would benefit from a new mixed-oxide fuel plant, which would turn the waste into fuel.

Like some GOP gubernatorial candidates, Mr. Ferrara also wants to eliminate property taxes.

Mr. Ferrara has run and won public office before, and Mr. Stewart says his stint on the Aiken Electric Co-op Board gives him experience working with a broad base of people - especially in District 86.

"There is not much of this district that is not in my co-op territory," he said.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.