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Hardwick stays put

In the race for South Carolina House District 106, experience beat enthusiasm, but enthusiasm isn't giving up.

Incumbent Nelson Hardwick beat newcomer Mande Wilkes and will retain his seat come January.

"I had such positive feedback today," Wilkes said. "People are ready for a new generation of leadership, and I am honored to be a part of that.

With 91 percent of Horry County precincts reporting, the seasoned Hardwick had 53 percent of the vote to Wilkes' 47 percent.

Hardwick could not be reached for comment. Wilkes, however, said this is not her last race.

"I'm running for U.S. Congress in 2012, no matter what," she said.

Hardwick has been in office since 2005. Wilkes has not held political office before.

Both were born and raised on the Grand Strand and both are Republicans, but Hardwick is an engineer by trade while Wilkes recently graduated from the Charleston School of Law and works as a legal consultant.

Wilkes tried to tackle taxes among her key issues, saying the state should lower taxes on businesses to become more business-friendly and bring jobs and industry. She also favors eliminating the state capital gains tax.

Hardwick voted against the latest cigarette tax increase proposal and against a 2008 proposal to reduce income tax, but voted for the marriage tax cut in 2008 and against expanding the earned income tax credit.

The South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee said Hardwick supported the group's interests 54.27 percent of the time in 2009, while the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce said Hardwick supported its position 92 percent of the time in 2008.

Wilkes focused on education spending and said school choice and parental rights are critical to quality education. She said the state needs to cut its spending without taking away from children or seniors; favored term limits; and promoted the Second Amendment, saying the right to bear arms is fundamental to people's freedom.