Students and members of the Greenwood community came out to Lander University’s Josephine Abney Cultural Center to hear the voices of local and state candidates in a debate forum sponsored by the Index Journal and the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. In attendance were candidates running for the following positions:
S.C. State House District 12: Anne Parks v. Jennings G. McAbee Sr.
S.C. State House District 13: Michael Gaskin v. John McCravy
S.C. State House District 10: J. Bryan Hope v. Floyd Nicholson
Greenwood County School District 50 Board of Trustees Seat 7: David Trent v. Tom Miller
Greenwood City Council Ward 5: Matthew Miller and Johnny Williams
Greenwood County Sheriff: Arnie Fisher v. Dennis Kelly
Dr. Samuel Lucas McMillan, chair of the Political and Social Sciences department at Lander, outshined Lester Holt as the moderator for the evening and raised questions on legislative priorities, term limits, economic development of both city and county infrastructures, and education.
District 12 candidates for the House, Parks (Democrat and Incumbent) and McAbee (Republican) both advocated the importance of road improvement legislation and quality education for Greenwood county. Both candidates agreed that education in this area of the state has received “the short end of the stick” and high tech, competitive industries will not come to Greenwood if the infrastructure is not up to par. Parks emphasized that student education must be top priority for the state because graduates are no longer competing locally, they are competing globally. In McAbee’s closing statements he referenced Rep. Parks’ faulty voting habits at the S.C. State House and vowed to protect state employees.
District 13 candidates for the House, Michael Gaskins (Democratic) and John McCravy (Republican) also responded to similar questions as District 12 candidates from the moderator on roads and education, but directed term limit questions to Gaskins and McCravy. McCravy believes there should term limits at the executive branch level, however roles of representatives and lower offices perhaps should not be as limited to every two years. Gaskins stressed that there needs to be a balance and a better definition to the role of representative where it is not a career, but instead a service to the people of the area. McCravy is not for raising taxes and urges that the reform on Greenwood roads, begins with a reform at the SC Department of Transportation. Gaskins emphasized making education attractive not only at Lander but at Piedmont Technical College, as well, where students can use their associates degrees and certificates to pay the education forward and work in the state they’ve graduated from. Gaskins’ remarked that his platform has been endorsed by the South Carolina Education Association, has received no PAC money, and stands strongly as a Pro-Life supporter.
Senate District 10 seat candidates, Floyd Nicholson (Democrat and Incumbent) and J. Bryan Hope (Republican) reminded the audience that voters decide servants of the people, not parties. Senator Nicholson, member of the S.C. Senate Standing Committee of Education, stated that “educated society is everything.” He believes students need to be competitive when they graduate from high school and this starts at the kindergarten level for many schools in Greenwood. According to Nicholson, small institutes like Lander University are addressing the societal needs and demands of the job market not bigger universities, but state funding is down to 7% for institutes of higher education which negatively affects schools of Lander’s size. Hope is running a platform for the people of Greenwood. His Gaskins’ legislative priorities including protecting children in the public education system from violence, reducing the number of texting or distracted drivers, funding at the higher education level, and fighting for the unborn. Hope also supports the idea of mandatory identification for voters and preserving American’s second amendment right.
School Board District 50 nonpartisan candidates David Trent and Tom Miller (Incumbent) are competing for seat 7 on the Board of Trustees. Miller’s plan including hiring more English as a Second Language teachers for students, recruit out of county teachers from education programs throughout the states’ universities, provide a good and beneficiary environment for teachers, and implement a summer school program that would benefit students at risk of falling behind. Trent is a parent of four children in District 50 and believe “education and economic development go hand in hand.” Trent’s research compared Greenwood District 50 to other areas in the state. Where the state average of LIFE scholarship recipients is 42%, in Greenwood that average is almost half at 25% of Greenwood graduates receiving an educational scholarship that could fund their college tuition. Trent believes literacy levels and graduation rates correlate and changes must begin at the elementary, early education level. From the parent perspective, Trent would like to improve student education to raise reading comprehension levels across the district and maintain a student to teacher ratio that benefits both the educator and the pupils.
Greenwood City Council candidates Matthew Miller and Johnny Williams for Ward 5 answered questions on economic development for Uptown Greenwood and the relationship of Lander University within the community. Miller stated that public safety is one of the most important aspects of Greenwood that needs to be maintained and regulated, as well as paid accordingly. Miller wants to see improvement outside of Uptown where road safety issues have become a concern for families that have children in the area. As a graduate of Lander, Miller believes that the city needs to do its best to support Lander University’s strategic plan that would keep over 3,000 students in Greenwood and benefit the city economically. Williams also believes the city needs to work with Lander to flourish within the community as a great university and institution. Williams has been involved with Greenwood city government for over 32 years and sees himself as the “voice of the people of Greenwood.”
Candidates for Greenwood Sheriff, Arnie Fisher and Dennis Kelly share the same vision to eradicate the problem of drug abuse and alcohol through educational programs, correcting domestic violence offenders, and training officers in light of recent incidents that have occurred across the United States this year. Fisher believes the heroin problem affecting cities in northern states is trickling down into South Carolina and plans to create a specific task force in drug related training and exercises to limit the number of abusers. On issues of domestic violence, Fisher believes his background in corrections and the military have placed him first hand in understand that the continuing problem of domestic abuse lies in correcting the behavior of criminals through domestic violence education programs. Kelly believes that domestic violence can be solve as a community and through the help of citizens, counseling and religious organizations violence against spouses, women, and children can be eradicated. Kelly was hesitant when asked about transparency within the sheriff’s office and police department, but believes that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are to be handled at the legal level.
The general election is next Tuesday, Nov. 8th, when voters will head to decide their next local and state officials as well as the next President of the United States.