Candidates address voters at Powdersville stump meeting

By Stan Welch
The COVID 19 pandemic was nowhere in sight, or apparently in mind, at the Powdersville Fire Station Monday night, as approximately a hundred people crammed into the training room to hear from candidates for the upcoming Republican primary. A handful of cloth masks were seen, but the social distance maintained was often shoulder to shoulder.
Once the candidates began to speak, several themes were constant: the right to life, the right to bear arms, each candidate’s status as at least staunch Christians, if not necessarily born again, and the need to keep the Democrats out of the White House in November. District Six County Councilman Jimmy Davis got the ball rolling by touting an ordinance the council has addressed that would declare Anderson County as a Second Amendment Sanctuary county.
The evening began with Anderson County Republican Party Chairperson Cheryl Cuthrell welcoming both the crowd and the candidates, which included the scope of open seats ranging from Sheriff to U.S. Senate. Brandon Surratt, challenger for the sheriff’s office, began the candidate presentations by sharing his more than a decade of law enforcement experience, while sharing his opinion that the Powdersville area has been neglected to an extent in terms of the law enforcement presence there.
Incumbent Sheriff Chad McBride followed Surratt, and agreed with him about Powdersville. But he also extolled his department’s efforts to address that less than robust presence. He pointed out that efforts are underway to establish a fueling station in the area so that deputies can refuel their cruisers without having to drive to Anderson and back. He also expressed his hope that a substation will eventually be located in the area.
He cited a number of statistics including a thirty eight per cent drop in burglaries countywide, as well as a Republicn 800 per cent increase in the seizure of methamphetamine, and a 98 per cent increase in the seizure of cocaine. He also cited a significant increase in deputies’ salaries, and a subsequent jump in the retention rate for deputies. The latest rate is 94.7 per cent.
The candidates for county treasurer came next, with challenger Van James professing his life long conservative values, and his desire to be held accountable by the voters. “I have never voted for a Democrat. When no Republican choice was available, I wrote in someone, usually myself.” He conceded that incumbent Jason Phillips has done a good job but intimated that fifteen years was long enough.
Phillips followed with a defense of his performance in office, and his leadership in modernizing and expanding the various payment methods available to the public these days. He pointed out the scope of the job explaining that his office handles two hundred thousand automobile tax bills and a hundred forty thousand residential and other property bills.
Mark Durham, candidate for State House District Ten, waxed more evangelical than political, stressing the need to return to the Bible and the Constitution as our guides as a nation. He did waver from the hard line right to life tone of the evening by saying that if his daughter was ‘raped by some meth head’, he would not want her to have the child. He also favored planning for a rainy day, and doing more about the roads. He offered staunch support for both the military and for law enforcement.
Incumbent West Cox reminded the crowd of the improvements that are slated for Dolly Cooper Park, and his role in obtaining funding for those projects. He also cited his efforts to accelerate the movement of children out of the DSS system and into better situations. “No child needs to be in that system for one day longer than is absolutely necessary.”
He also stressed his work with the SCDOT to insure that the Powdersville area gets the attention it deserves, and added that Highway 81 is scheduled for paving in the next few months. His amendment to the state Constitution to increase the amount put into the state reserve fund from seven per cent to ten succeeded.
Current District One County Councilman Craig Wooten is challenging Richard Cash for the state Senate. His campaign pitch was less specific, but evoked strong echoes of President Trump’s ideas of American excellence. “We do things in America. We take action. And things are changing right before our eyes. There is a real battle between capitalism and socialism, between Judaeo Christian and progressive values.”
He added that he had worked with Sheriff McBride to increase deputy salaries and with small businesses to rewrite county procurement policies to make local businesses more competitive in the bid process. “Capitalism is not just a type of economy. It is a thought process, a way of approaching things. We do things here, and that is why the world looks up to us.” He also emphasized his leadership role in crafting the 2A sanctuary ordinance for Anderson County.
Incumbent Richard Cash acknowledged Wooten’s conservative credentials, but stressed one important difference. “I have a track record that proves where I stand on issues.” Those issues include Second Amendment rights, as well as Cash’s signature position – the right to life. Cash addressed concerns that he is a on trick pony, by referencing his experience as a small business owner and a Second Amendment defender. He cited a number of endorsements from various political action and business organizations.
He also stressed that he does not approve of Governor McMaster’s continued extension of the COVID 19 state of  emergency. “He has no authority to extend that state of emergency without approval of the General Assembly. He has not sought that approval, and the General Assembly has consistently failed to exercise its role by demanding that he do so. The result is a total mockery of the rule of law in South Carolina.”
Challengers to U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham rounded out the evening. Attorney Duke Buckner, the only black candidate in attendance, said he was called to run for office after seeing Graham essentially threaten President Trump with impeachment if Trump fired then USAG Jeff Sessions and FBI director Bob Mueller. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “ His position on the right to life is absolute – no abortion, no exception. He supports the Second Amendment and calls for fiscal discipline. “I love this state and this country and I am appalled by the events we are seeing right now.”
Buckner  drew a laugh from the crowd when he said he got his nickname from Uncle Jesse’s hunting dog on the Dukes of Hazzard.
Michael LaPierre touted his business experience as an executive with UPS and a political and economic strategist. His personal history included growing up on a farm, with periods when the family was on welfare, to receiving a baseball scholarship to Brown University, where he said he often jousted with John Kennedy Jr. over political ideas. “But we remained friends and we need to regain some of that attitude and work together today.”
Joe Reynolds was the last candidate to speak, citing his promise to serve only one term, and to work to get special interest money out of the political system. He favors immigration reform, and action on the climate challenges before us.
The Republican primary will be held next Tuesday, June 9.