The four Republicans running for South Carolina lieutenant governor come from vastly different backgrounds to a role they view as offering a bully pulpit for their ideas on taxes and senior issues.
Former state Insurance Director Eleanor Kitzman, Florence County Councilman Ken Ard and Army reservist Bill Connor want to help recruit businesses and, sometimes vaguely, advocate overhauling the state's piecemeal tax system. Former judge Larry Richter wants to concentrate on improving seniors' lives.
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The Republicans are competing in the June 8 primary for the chance to replace two-term Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is running for governor. The winner will face Charleston lawyer Ashley Cooper, the lone Democrat in the race, who served as legislative director and attorney for former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings.
A Republican has won the seat since 1994. Voters last elected a woman to the post in 1978.
The lieutenant governor succeeds the governor, should the top officeholder die or leave office. By law, the office is a part-time job, with a $46,545 annual salary. Official duties include presiding over the Senate and overseeing the state Office on Aging, a responsibility added in 2004 at Bauer's request.
Ard, a two-term Florence County councilman and business investor, says he wants to promote overhauling the tax structure. He believes lawmakers should reduce corporate and personal income taxes and remove sales tax exemptions and caps, such as the $300 cap on vehicles, boats and planes.
He said he believes taxes should be based more on consumption but stopped short of supporting a so-called "fair tax," which would replace income and payroll-based taxes with a sales tax.
"America has rewarded complacency and taxed productivity," he said.
A Pamplico native, Ard touts his business experience and notes he's the only non-lawyer in the race. Ventures he's sold include a truck body manufacturing plant, a convenient store and centipede grass farms. He says he wants to get involved in bringing business to South Carolina.
He said he doesn't like tax incentives, noting he's "never been offered one single red cent as a small business owner." But he says he understands they're needed to compete with other states and says each offer will depend on the prospect. He noted Florence County gave incentives to recruit QVC, Heinz and Monster.com and he believes the investments will be worth it.
Ard said he believes the lieutenant governor and governor should work in tandem on economic development, so they should run on the same ticket.
Ard, 46, attended Wofford College but did not graduate. He is married with three children, ages 7, 18 and 19.
Connor, a lawyer and reserve lieutenant colonel in the Army, is a vocal advocate of a so-called "fair tax," saying that's a much better way to recruit businesses to the state than incentives.
He says he wants to work as a team with whomever's elected governor to recruit jobs and would ask for the role of "economic ambassador."
Connor, of Orangeburg, says he wants to actively recruit retirees to South Carolina, starting with the idea of ending income taxes on military pensions. He says he wants to better coordinate with churches and other nonprofits on services that help seniors live independently, such as delivered meals, to stretch those costs for the agency as the state's elderly population grows.
He also contends the state's budget grew too big before the economic crisis.
"I'm one who firmly believes in as small a government as possible," he said.
Though a lawyer, Connor said he favors tort reform, noting his wife has an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Orangeburg. He promotes her as a twofer for voters: "If you elect me, she's very capable and has a pulse on issues of Medicaid and Medicare."
In the Army since 1990, he went into the reserves in 2002 and served as a senior adviser in southern Afghanistan in 2007-08.
Connor, 42, was raised in Charleston and earned a bachelor's in history from The Citadel and a law degree from the University of South Carolina.
He is married with three children, ages 9, 11 and 13.
Kitzman said she wants to promote the importance of reading in the early years.
A lawyer and businesswoman, Kitzman says she will share her own life story as a way to inspire struggling teens and parents. She dropped out of school in 10th grade, got married, had a child, and became a single mom, but credits her love of reading for enabling her to earn a GED and go on to graduate college and law school.
"I know from firsthand experience how important reading is and how reading can help kids overcome adversity," she said. "It's why I am where I am today."
Kitzman, of Columbia, says she will hold town hall meetings across the state to get residents' input on what they think should be cut from the state budget, saying legislators don't know enough about their constituents' opinions on spending. She says she believes, in general, that incentives are unfair to businesses already in the state and should play a limited role in luring businesses here.
She says she will promote limited spending, comprehensive tax reform and deregulation.
She points to her own business as an example. She moved to South Carolina from North Carolina and founded Driver's Choice Insurance in 1999 after lawmakers removed requirements in vehicle coverage. She grew the company to 50 employees before selling it in 2004. She was state insurance director from 2005 to 2007, when she resigned over a disagreement with Gov. Mark Sanford on coastal insurance.
The Houston native earned a bachelor's in English from the University of Houston and a law degree from South Texas College of Law.
Kitzman, 53, is a divorced mother of a 36-year-old son and grandmother of two.
Richter, a former judge and state senator, notes his age in his desire to promote better lives for seniors.
The 63-year-old Mount Pleasant resident says he advocates providing seniors more property tax relief and says they should be able to take college classes for free without restrictions.
"Students almost by osmosis will benefit from the life experiences that person brings to a classroom," he said. "I view seniors as a resource."
He says more seniors could get the prescriptions they need if lawmakers passed a measure removing liability for pills given away or sold very cheaply after the expiration date. Medicine could be collected and given to people who can't afford to get their prescriptions filled, he said.
He says he has the experience to get his ideas through the Legislature, and he promotes his legal background. He says he wants to return to public service but has no desire to run for higher office and will treat the office as the part-time job it was created to be.
"Every lieutenant governor has sought to fluff up the office. I'm not looking for a platform to run for governor, just the job of lieutenant governor," he said.
Richter earned a bachelor's in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a law degree from USC. He was a judge in municipal, family and circuit courts. He served a single term in the Senate, stepping aside in 1996 after bypass surgery.
He ran for attorney general in 2002 and lost a primary runoff to Henry McMaster.
He is married with three daughters, ages 23, 28 and 33, and two grandchildren.