I’ve been quietly watching the special election for the S.C. House District 106. I live in that area.
The Republican Party dominates South Carolina and the Grand Strand. That means political philosophy wasn’t the primary dividing line between the candidates during the first round of voting and won’t be during next week’s runoff between former Horry County Republican Party executive committee member Russell Fry and newbie Horry County Councilman Tyler Servant. Fry received 45 percent of the vote the first time around to Servant’s 33 percent. (Full disclosure: Fry’s mother is a friend of mine who helped keep Freedom Readers, the literacy non-profit my wife founded, afloat while we were in Boston.)
At this stage, how a person goes about implementing that philosophy maybe more important than the philosophy itself. Anyone can promise to keep taxes low and eliminate wasteful spending while trying to spur economic and job growth and improving the area’s infrastructure. I want the widening of S.C. 707 finished as soon as possible, just as many others in that area. I want the plans to handle the continued growth in our area as clear as possible on the county and state level.
I have major interest in how educational mandates from Columbia are going to affect St. James area schools, just like most of my neighbors.
The question is will the person we send to Columbia have the skills - and humility - to know when to push hard and know when to compromise on something relatively inconsequential to make progress on those more important long-term goals.
Will that person have the foresight - and humility - to hang firm to that philosophy when it makes sense and veer from it when it doesn’t.
It can’t just be about giving the people what they want nor ignoring the public.
More than that, though, there are times issues arise that call for calm, rational leadership that sometimes mean going against something you personally have a preference for. And in this moment, the Confederate flag has been such a defining moment.
It’s been moved from the State House grounds after more than half a century. It’s no longer a prime issue. But how the people we send to Columbia view it is.
Fry has made it clear that he would have seized the historic moment had he been in office and voted to remove the flag. I know enough about his family to say that decision wasn’t made out of political expedience or bowing to politically-correct pressure or trying to defame those who revere that flag.
As far as I can tell, Servant has taken a different route, saying he would have put it up for public vote. That’s not good enough. On an issue like this, you must lead, not be led.
There won’t be a public referendum every time the House 106 representative has to face a dicey vote that might mean a tax increase or not enough social workers to protect the state’s neediest children.
That representative is going to have to take a stand and clearly explain why he did.
So far in this race, one candidate has done just that when the world was watching how South Carolina would respond to the horror in Charleston, and the other hasn’t.