HODGES — Although stumpless, the grounds of Cokesbury College made a scenic setting Thursday for 20 local candidates to make stump speeches, pitching themselves to would-be voters.
Stump speeches are a historical tradition of Cokesbury College, and the Cokesbury Commission has worked in recent years to revitalize the classic format. Candidates were introduced, then given eight uninterrupted minutes to vie for votes. The tone was civil, as opponents made their case for why the dozens of attendees should cast their ballots one way or another.
Guests brought their own lawn chairs, and when rain passed overhead the speeches were moved underneath a nearby tent set up in case of inclement weather. Here’s an overview of what each of the candidates had to say:
Incumbent John McCravy,
state House District 13“2020 has probably been the most unprecedented year in decades, and we’re probably in the middle of the most important election in years,” McCravy said in his opening.
First elected in 2016, McCravy is seeking a third term against challenger Denise Waldrep. He said he’s a fiscal and social conservative. He’s a staunch advocate for anti-abortion legislation, and spearheaded efforts to pass a fetal heartbeat bill.
He said he’s for increasing teacher salaries, supports the right for individuals to carry firearms and supports law enforcement.
“A vote for McCravy and republicans this year is a vote for conservatism and democracy,” he said.
Jose Villa, state Senate District 4Villa isn’t a politician. He said although party labels might make political communication easier, he personally rejects them.
“I’m all about the people, no label really suits me,” he said.
He said his father was an undocumented immigrant, and he’s proud of the hard work and dedication his family showed in striving for a better life for him. He wants to see the immigration process reformed to make work visas easier to obtain and to provide a legal path to citizenship that’s easier for people to navigate.
“I’m very appreciative for what my parents did, and being a parent myself, I understand risking your life for your kids,” he said.
Billy Garrett, state Senate District 10A longtime Greenwood attorney, Garrett said he was glad candidates were given this chance to talk directly to constituents. He said he was partially convinced to run by a phone call from McCravy, where the lawmaker shared his concerns about the direction of abortion legislation in South Carolina.
Garrett said he’s a Christian conservative and supports President Donald Trump.
“Our president has done more for this country in the past four years than any president I know of,” he said.
He wants to see the state develop a 20-year infrastructure plan, which would include expanding the highway system and bringing an interstate to the Greenwood area. Internet and phone service, he said, needs to be expanded to all people in the district.
He also said he wanted to develop a long-term goal to do away with the state’s income tax.
Greenwood County sheriffDavis served two terms as Greenwood County sheriff and is back to seek a third. He said if elected, his primary goal would be to crack down on drugs and gangs.
He supports a community policing model that involves strict enforcement of the law.
“We’re going back into the communities,” he said. “We’re going to get out of our cars. ... We’re going to earn the trust and respect of the people we serve.”
Davis said as communities grew, police had to shift to patrolling in vehicles, which made the job less personal. He said he wants to see the office regain its personal relationship with the people it serves.
Incumbent Dennis Kelly, Greenwood County sheriffKelly, elected as sheriff in 2016, has more than three decades of law enforcement experience under his belt.
When he took over the office, he said he dealt with management and staffing problems that required cleaning up. After handling these internal issues, he said he built a better relationship between the agency and the community.
He built relationships with pastors, hoping the faith community could help bring peace to areas affected by regular violence. He said he’s part of multiple community organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in Greenwood County and has been endorsed by Gov. Henry McMaster and state Attorney General Alan Wilson.
One of the biggest battles facing law enforcement, he said, is the “blue pills” that contain fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that can be fatal in extremely small doses. He said he’s worked with local drug rehabilitation organizations to promote health and fight against addiction.
Shelby Dominick Reed, Greenwood County School District 50 boardReed is a certified teacher who has more than 20 years in education. She handled teacher recruitment in the Atlanta metropolitan area and has children of her own in Greenwood’s education system.
“We have a solid board of trustees right now, and I want to contribute to the work being done,” she said. “Like you, I care about our future. I care about Greenwood families.
Greenwood City Council Ward 5Kelly, a local volunteer firefighter who spent 21 years working as a nursing assistant at Self Regional Healthcare, said he’s running to fight against higher taxes.
He said he opposes the Local Option Sales Tax city officials are promoting, calling it a “dirty tax.”
He said he wants to fight any effort to remove any historical monument in Greenwood, and decried having “drag queens reading at the county library.”
“I promise you, there’s going to be a lot of mudslinging if I get up there,” he said.
state House District 13There are too many lawyers working at the state House and not enough educators, Waldrep said.
With more than 25 years of experience working in education, she said she’s seen how supporting education supports the community overall.
“While I was teaching, I realized our nation, our people and our world need creative problem solving,” she said. “I will work for a South Carolina where all families have the necessary resources in order to survive.”
She said she’s proud of local law enforcement’s efforts to support community policing. She said the best way to prevent abortions is by providing easy access to birth control and creating an environment where women don’t see the need to get an abortion.
Kay Self, Greenwood County Council District 4Running as a petition candidate, Self urged voters to avoid voting straight-ticket, because petition candidates aren’t affiliated with a political party.
Self served as director of the chamber of commerce, worked in economic development with the Greenwood Partnership Alliance and has experience working alongside area nonprofits. She was also executive director for the S.C. Festival of Flowers.
“I want to see our future generations grow,” she said.
She said her experience will give her an edge in matters of economic development and promoting educational opportunities. She recognized the importance of small businesses and wants to work to fill the empty retail spaces in Greenwood.
She also said Greenwood needs to meet the transportation needs of its people.
Incumbent Mike Gambrell, state Senate District 4Gambrell served as a state representative from 2007-16 before a special election to fill Billy O’Dell’s seat brought him to the state Senate.
“Once you’re elected to public office, you represent everybody,” he said.
He said he’s not one to step into the limelight and spent his time working behind the scenes. He supported bringing rural broadband legislation forward and is dedicated to constituent service.
He praised Greenwood County and its municipalities for always coming together and presenting a united front, which he said sends a strong message of cohesion to industries interested in the area.
Greenwood City Council Ward 2Running to fill the seat of the late Linda Edwards, Partlow said if she can do half the job Edwards did, she’d be a successful candidate.
“We are at a point in Greenwood where we are called to go deeper,” she said.
Going deeper, to her, means tackling the roots of violence in parts of Greenwood.
“When you choose to pick up a gun, you’re picking a side,” she said. “It takes more character to choose nonviolence.”
She wants to bridge community gaps and bridge the gap some areas of Greenwood have with law enforcement. She wants to be a catalyst for positive change and aims to host quarterly meetings to hear from constituents if elected.
“This campaign calls on all of us to think about not where we are, but where we want to be,” she said.
Greenwood County School District 50 boardRunning as a write-in candidate, Findley said the school board is a bipartisan job — regardless of party, everyone wants what’s best for their children.
“The youth should be important to everyone, and we need to invest in our youth,” she said.
She’s lived in the area for 20 years and believes in Greenwood’s sense of community. Improving education doesn’t just attract industry and business, but attracts families to the area who want to raise their children here.
She’s served as a mentor through her work at Lonza and said she wants to integrate Greenwood’s business and educational communities.
Greenwood County School District 50 boardShaw is a teacher at Newberry High School who was a product of District 50 — he attended Oakland, now Rice Elementary, and Pinecrest Elementary, and is a graduate of Lander University.
He said the district has great programs but is in debt. It’s in need of a balanced budget that invests in teacher pay and retention.
“My belief for Greenwood County schools to become better is simple, we have to invest wisely and where it’s needed,” he said.
Many students are unsure of the future of their education, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Shaw said educators have to have tough conversations about how to lead and shape education.
Incumbent Chuck Moates, Greenwood County
Council District 4Moates is seeking a fourth term on county council, and he said his experience is an asset in government.
“Whether it’s in business, whether it’s in government, whether it’s in athletics, at the end of the day, after all is said and done, experience matters and what you do counts,” he said.
He pointed to several of council’s accomplishments while he’s been in office. The county funded a new animal shelter, repurposed the old county library into a veterans center, hired a litter coordinator and passed the Capital Projects Sales Tax, which he said was a game-changer.
Work is underway to execute the county’s master fire plan, which includes expanding fire stations to cover more than 99% of county residents, he said.
Incumbent Floyd Nicholson, state Senate District 10A retired educator and former mayor of Greenwood, Nicholson said after three terms in office, he’s still an educator at heart.
“The top of my agenda is education,” he said. “The better educated your society is, you eliminate some of your other problems.”
Nicholson said during his tenure, the legislature passed K-4 education for all. He said he worked to secure funding for local organizations such as Project Hope and has pushed for better teacher pay. He cited the efforts that transformed John de la Howe school into the Governor’s School for Agriculture.
“We’ve made progress, but there’s still progress to be made,” he said.
Incumbent Matthew Miller, Greenwood City Council Ward 5Miller is seeking a second term on council. He said he ran four years ago, when he was 27, in the hopes of providing a new perspective to council.
He praised the police department, which was recently re-accredited, for having policies in place already that activists were calling for law enforcement to adopt in other communities. He said he wants to work toward more competitive pay for first responders.
He cited his work on the parks steering committee, which is expanding parks in Greenwood through Capital Projects Sales Tax funds. He wants a second term to continue working toward improving pedestrian access in town and attracting businesses and residents to Greenwood.
state House District 12Spearman said he worked in the agricultural business for years and is a persistent and tenacious person.
He said he’s running to bring a conservative perspective to the seat and is a staunch Republican. He said he believes religion is an essential service, he supports the Second Amendment and is against abortion.
He said he wants to hear from more educators on what direction education should go in, but knows he’d like to increase teacher pay to help with retention.
Incumbent Theo Lane, Greenwood County
Council District 7“What is the quality of life we want for Greenwood County,” he asked the crowd.
When he was elected to his first term in 2016, Lane said his focus was on education, public safety and economic development.
“In that period of time, in the 2016 referendum, you showed your good judgment in supporting the Capital Project Sales Tax referendum,” he said.
He said the money brought in by the penny tax increase has helped grow Greenwood and will continue to do so. He said he views every decision made as an investment because the money the government spends belongs to the people they serve.
Incumbent David Stumbo, 8th Circuit SolicitorStumbo is running unopposed, which he joked is the best way to run for reelection.
“Everyone under this tent, I am your advocate in the courtroom,” he said.
He said he wants four more years of working alongside law enforcement to make the community safe. He asked the crowd to reject any rhetoric about defunding or reallocating funds from law enforcement.
“It will hurt us if we tear down the institutions that keep us safe,” he said.
Incumbent Anne Parks, state House District 12Parks said she’s always had an open-door policy in office and values the chance to talk directly with constituents.
“Holding this position, I have never forgotten who sent me there,” she said.
She asked her supporters to help elect her again so that she can continue to represent them in state government. As the director of a funeral home, she repeated a joke she often tells while campaigning.
“Whether it be in the funeral home business or as your representative, I will be the last person to let you down,” she said.