By Charleston Mercury Staff

So much of the land we love here in the Lowcountry is covered by South Carolina House District 110 — Historic Downtown Charleston and much of Mt. Pleasant’s Old Village, Shem Creek and Hobcaw. For many of us, this is home. For all of us, it’s the core of our region’s past and present and future; these are the key places that attract millions of visitors from around the world. Thus, it is of paramount importance for voters to make right the decision about who will represent some of the finest jewels in the Lowcountry crown.

Five candidates seek to represent the Republican side in this race. A Democratic candidate, Alice Wakefield, is running unopposed in her primary. As we near the June 14 primary date, your salmon sheets posed some questions to the Republican contenders.

Questions for candidates in GOP Primary

1. What is best solution for maintaining — and growing when necessary — our state’s infrastructure, particularly our highways and bridges? Are you in favor of increasing the tax on gasoline if it goes toward funding infrastructure?

2. Do you believe you, as a member of the House, have a role to play in managing growth in the Lowcountry? If so, what steps should the state government take?

3. What are your top three suggestions for improving education in this state?

William Cogswell

Profession: Real Estate

Family: Lucile L. Cogswell (wife), Mason (11), Meade (9)

Grew up: On Gibbes Street

Favorite hobbies: Hunting, being on the water.

 

  1. First — infrastructure needs to be prioritized statewide. Special consideration should be given to the Lowcountry because it’s growing faster than any other part of the state and we provide the most tax revenue. Second — widening I-26 and 41 is a good start but it is only a temporary solution. Long term, congestion will get worse if widening roads is all we do. On the gas tax: No business can survive without investing back into itself and we have deferred maintenance that threatens our state’s economic well-being. Though I am no fan of taxes, this needs to happen. If there is blame to be cast, it should be at past legislatures that allowed us to get to this point in the first place.      

 

  1. Most people do not realize how much influence Columbia has on growth here in the Lowcountry. Growth can be managed and directed, but only if legislators work closely with local governments. If left alone, a tomato plant (growth) in fertile soil (the Lowcountry) will grow all over the place until it collapses under its own weight (feel familiar?). The legislature can provide the stake (infrastructure) and fertilizer (tax incentives) to direct growth, while the local governments do the watering and the pruning (zoning). The two need to work together to promote healthy and sustainable growth. To make this happen, it will take leadership, vision, action, and the political will that comes from real business experience.    

 

  1. Schools are also key tools to direct growth, and to prevent overcrowding legislators need to coordinate with school boards to ensure a shared vision of how and where growth occurs. We need to support our vocational training programs; a tuition cap for state funded universities; and the cost of higher education is out of control and should be brought back into the realm of reality.

 

William Freeman

Profession: Tourism industry

Family: Single

Grew up: Originally from Simpsonville, has lived in Charleston for a decade

 

  1. I’m not in favor of a gas tax increase. It’ll disproportionately hurt those on fixed incomes and working people. I believe that we must use the $766 million dollars in recurring surplus funds to use towards infrastructure, and more importantly we have to implement real reforms in how the state funds roads. That reform is necessary so that money goes towards repairs and expansion projects where they are needed. Furthermore, real reform will get rid of the cronyism and corruption that is built in the current system saving taxpayers money.

 

  1. I believe that the growth issue is a local issue that must be addressed by city and county governments. At the state level the government must do all it can to remove our control, including restoring the local government fund to its proper level, so that communities can have the most effective direct control on how to direct growth. Only local governments can decided what is best for their communities.

 

  1. First, we have to look into how we fund education, because the current system isn’t working, and we have to allow parents to have more economic freedom to choose where their children go. Second, we have to cut the extremely high administrative overhead costs at every level of education in this state and hire more teachers not bureaucrats. Third, we have to pay our educators more because they are shaping the minds of future generations.  

 

Russell Guerard

Profession: Real Estate Broker

Family: wife Tara, three children (ages 8, 7 and 4), Georgia (springer spaniel) 

Grew up: Born (Roper) and raised in the district (Tradd St.) and has lived in District 110 most of his life

Hobbies: On the water and spending quality time with my family

 

  1. Let’s prioritize our road funding for the state with I-26 at the the top of this list; I’d like to see this interstate four lanes each way from here to Columbia. It’s the spine that connects the Lowcountry with the rest of the state. I’m not in favor of a gas tax. Voters buy into the idea that the gas tax will go only to transportation infrastructure and repairs, which are needed, and then they see the legislature give those dollars to boondoggle projects that may or may not be transportation related, and then of course, the gas tax never goes down, no matter if the monies are being used as promised or not.

 

  1. I would see a main focus in the Lowcountry that most can agree on is the preservation of the environment that so many rely on — from shrimping/fishing to tourism to quality of life. Yet that has to be balanced with leaving room to welcome industries with good paying jobs. The state level may be the place to push for those considerations — since the entire S.C. coast would be in play, not just one particular area.

 

  1. Most people seem to think throwing more money at schools will solve the problems, but that has been shown consistently to be a false premise. Eliminate some of the overhead; for example, colleges in the past few decades have increased costs exponentially, yet most have not increased professors or classes — they have increased their bureaucracy. I support vouchers/opportunity grants so that parents have options for their children. Also, I’d like to see our schools identify students with dyslexia. These bright children who learn differently, as many as one in five, go through our school system undiagnosed. Let’s provide early detection so all children can succeed in our schools and go on to live happy productive lives. Of course, attracting and recruiting outstanding teachers is always a priority as well as parental involvement.

 

Trey Harrell

Profession: Lawyer with the Peper Law Firm

Family: Wife, the former Amber Dantzler, and an eight-month old daughter

Grew up: In the Lowcountry

Favorite hobbies:

 

  1. Making state government agencies more efficient will save taxpayer dollars. An audit of SCDOT was just completed, and I believe strongly that the department needs to be reformed to make it more efficient. Improving the efficiency of SCDOT would equate to additional resources being allocated toward actual road improvements and away from bureaucracy. Until those improvements and cost savings are made, I think voting on a gas tax increase is premature.

 

  1. I am a strong believer in making government as local as possible. I believe that the government should be run as follows, with a few slight exceptions: Federal government’s job to keep us safe. State’s job is to fund and maintain the roads and schools. Everything else should be handled at a local level. While there are steps a House member can take to manage growth, it must only be at the direction of the local government.

 

  1. As the husband of a public school teacher, I know there are a number of things we can do to improve education in our state and better prepare the next generation for our state’s workforce. My three top suggestions to improve education are: Providing children with the access to the best school possible, regardless of their zip codes; ensuring our students are reading at grade level by the third grade; and identifying students who aren’t necessarily going to go to college and preparing them with the STEM skills that are needed in our high tech economy.

 

Edward Phipps

Profession: Business Owner, Attorney, Entrepreneur

Family: Married with five children ages 4-22

Grew up: Mt. Pleasant

Favorite hobbies: Coaching Youth Baseball, Charleston outdoors activities and sports

 

  1. I am not for raising taxes. Projects need be funded on merit not politics. The Department of Transportation should also be a cabinet department appointed by the governor to take the politics out, increase transparency, efficiency, and accountability. Right now, the DOT cannot even tell us why or how they choose to spend money on particular projects. We must audit and restructure DOT. Just throwing additional money at the system will not fix the problems. Restructuring the DOT and putting a clear process in place for need-based funding is a key start. If funds are required after reform, regarding the gas tax, we need to think outside the box. Large trucks do the most damage to our roads. We should consider a specific tax on diesel, which would be an appropriate and consistent revenue stream to address our needs.

 

  1. I believe in keeping power local. I think a representative should support and assist in local smart growth policies. As a concerned citizen, I already regularly attend council meetings. I will continue to attend local meetings and work with our local officials and the people to support, from the state level, ways to properly preserve, promote and protect our community.

 

  1. First, empower parents — our education system needs to be reformed and upgraded to provide a 21st-century education for our students. This means expanding choices for students and parents through virtual schools, regional career centers and more. Second, Keep Washington OUT — I do not want Barack Obama or D.C. bureaucrats deciding how we teach our children or what standards we should follow. Greater local control is needed. Third, keeping our schools safe — every child deserves to learn in a safe environment and every parent should know their child is safe when dropping them off at school.  

 

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