South Carolina’s Senate District 10 is in the heart of Trump country, with the Republican easily carrying the district’s four counties in his successful bid for the White House four years ago.
While the billionaire developer drew Republican voters out in force across the Lakelands, Sen. Floyd Nicholson managed to eke out a 2.6-point win over Republican challenger Bryan Hope.
The 71-year-old Greenwood Democrat spent nearly $70,000 in the race to Hope’s less than $5,000.
This year, Nicholson is facing GOP nominee Billy Garrett on the Nov. 3 ballot in what is among the most closely watched races in the state.
The candidates offer different visions for Greenwood and the state on a host of issues.
During the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, more than 150,000 South Carolinians have tested positive for COVID-19, a respiratory virus that has claimed more than 3,000 lives in the state.
Nicholson, who spent decades as a Greenwood city councilman and mayor, said facial coverings and social distancing appear to be working in slowing the spread of the virus.
“I think we are seeing some cases being relaxed in certain areas,” Nicholson said.
An advocate for wearing masks, he said a spike in new cases might force the state to mandate facial coverings.
Garrett said he supports widespread testing and the aggressive rollout of vaccines while making sure rural areas are not left behind.
The 63-year-old attorney wants to create a public health force that prepares first responders and teachers, among others, so they are ready should another pandemic hit. He wants the state to be self-sufficient.
“We need to have our own ventilators, our own PPE,” Garrett said.
Nicholson said it’s important to support the businesses you already have while also touting the importance of technical colleges.
“In order to attract jobs, you have to have a trained workforce,” Nicholson said.
For Garrett, roads is a top issue for the Lakelands economy. He said major roads that connect Abbeville, Greenwood, Saluda, McCormick and other communities should be expanded to four lanes and work needs to begin on planning for an interstate to connect the Lakelands to Interstate 85, 26 or 20.
He also wants to develop a 20-year plan for the district, which covers portions of Greenwood, Abbeville, McCormick and Saluda counties.
The Black Lives Matter movement and protests against Confederate monuments across the state brought new attention to the Heritage Act, a compromise from 2000 that brought down the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome and requires a supermajority in the Legislature to sign off on removing any war-related monument on public property.
Nicholson said he thinks the law needs to be amended.
“I think that should be left up to the local counties,” he said. “I don’t think it should be statewide.”
Garrett said the act was a bipartisan effort from members from both sides of the aisle that its architects thought was the best way to protect statues.
“My general philosophy is not about tearing things down, I’m about building us up,” Garrett said.
Nicholson, a retired educator who sits on the education committee, said statewide K-4 is so important to getting children ready for school.
Nicholson said teacher salary is also an important issue.
“We need to make sure we keep these experienced teachers,” Nicholson said.
While Garrett thinks teacher pay should be increased, he said some increases should be tied to performance.
“We have to have manageable class sizes,” Garrett said.
Garrett said he supports training programs that equip workers with the skills they need to get good jobs.
“Not everyone needs a four-year degree, but everyone needs a job,” Garrett said.