We finish our election recommendations today, with the races for state House in District 68 and District 106:
Heather Ammons Crawford, over Larry Richardson
Socastee has been the scene of one of the most confusing election processes this year, with two election cycles going on at once, first a special primary election this past Tuesday to fill the rest of Rep. Thad Viers’ term through December, and now a primary this coming Tuesday to choose a District 68 representative for the next two years.
Both candidates are first-time candidates and should be commended for being willing to step forward, but Crawford has our support. While this may be her first campaign for office, Crawford is no stranger to local politics. She has served for years as a leader of the Grand Strand Young Republicans, as an executive committee member of the local GOP and most recently as chief of staff for S.C. Rep. Alan Clemmons. Her experience with the Columbia and local political scenes, along with her work in constituent service for Clemmons, will serve her well as a legislator.
And Crawford is open to working together with others, a necessary trait for any politician who hopes to do more than generate headlines.
“This ‘no compromise, it’s my way or the highway’ stuff, that doesn’t work,” she said. “It doesn’t work in a marriage; it doesn’t work in a friendship. It doesn’t work in any kind of a relationship in the real world.”
Richardson, for his part, is all about not compromising. A rare candidate who decided to take no campaign contributions from anybody, he sees the world in black and white terms and is happy to lay those out. Asked how he would work in the partisan atmosphere that can paralyze progress, he said nothing about negotiating or finding common ground. Instead, convinced entirely of his own rightness, he laid out a vision for a statewide network of citizen activists that he could rally to his aid and who would sway the rest of the legislature to his point of view. His confidence is impressive, but misplaced: This just isn’t how things work.
When it comes to priorities, Crawford again shows superiority. Jobs and economic development are at the top of her list. While her suggestions for helping bring those jobs here – cutting regulations, making it easier to do business in our state – aren’t perhaps the most original, there’s no reason they need to be. We’ve heard the same thing over and over again for a simple reason: It’s important and at the top of many people’s minds. Richardson’s top priority, on the other hand, is to fix an obscure rule that he believes unfairly keeps 17-year-olds out of local party reorganization efforts. It’s obviously important to Richardson, but with so many bigger issues affecting his district, it’s hard to fathom why this minor tweak would be his main concern.
Nelson Hardwick, over Rod Smith
The race on the South Strand, where incumbent Rep. Nelson Hardwick is facing Surfside Beach Town Councilman Rod Smith, has been one of the most vicious of the year. Smith came out swinging from the start, calling into question Hardwick’s conservative bona fides, linking him with President Obama and putting out poorly sourced attack mailings that accused Hardwick of profligate spending.
As Smith has long ties to Horry County’s Solid Waste Authority, and as Hardwick has come out as a leading legislative opponent of the county’s policy to give the SWA exclusive rights to garbage disposal, the main issue driving the race from the beginning has been trash, suitable for a race that featured so much trash talk, at least on Smith’s side.
But whatever your position on flow control, the bigger issue for voters of District 106 should be the basic competency and skills of their leaders, and in this capacity, Hardwick clearly comes out ahead. With years of experience in the House, he knows how Columbia works and is able to get things done. He listens to constituents and can help their priorities become law, as he did this year for opponents of human trafficking. Refreshingly practical, he admits that government is not free, and is willing to raise taxes if necessary – he mentioned the cap on auto sales and the gas tax – in order to pay for needed items like the Southern Evacuation Lifeline or other infrastructure projects. And his position as the head of a standing committee gives the Grand Strand a crucial voice inside the House leadership.
In our interview with Smith, he was very much anti-Hardwick, but had more trouble in being pro-Smith. Asked how he would perform in Columbia, he offered only generalities, such as taking a “more conservative approach,” voting against “things that would be considered wasteful” and for “necessary” spending. When we pressed him for specifics on what those meant, he could not summon examples, leading us to wonder how he might be able to identify one of these wasteful or necessary items when it presented itself. In the end, he feels very much like a straw man being pushed by Hardwick opponents, rather than a real candidate who thinks for himself, and therefore we cannot give him our support.