N.C. Christian school leader seeks Gullick's S.C. House seat

Matt GarfieldApril 3, 2008 

Carl Gullick waited for it through much of the past year. Turns out his expectation took until the last possible weekend to come true: Another Republican will challenge him for the state House seat he won in a landslide in 2006.

Kyle Boyd of Fort Mill filed Friday to enter the District 48 race, saying he wants to be a "true conservative light" for northern York County. Boyd lives in Regent Park and serves as headmaster of Walnut Grove Christian School in south Charlotte.

Boyd has lived in Fort Mill for a decade, but this is his first run for political office.

"I'm not going to be into any Carl Gullick bashing, by any means," Boyd, 33, said Wednesday. "I just feel I can add a true conservative light and a true conservative vote to this area, which may not have been happening in the past."

Gullick expects Boyd's campaign to be supported by interest groups in Columbia pushing school vouchers. In the past, these groups have paid for direct mail and radio ads to defeat elected officials who oppose voucher programs. The groups include South Carolinians for Responsible Government and the Club for Growth.

Gullick, of Lake Wylie, emphasized he has nothing bad to say about Boyd but fears outsiders will bring personal attacks to the contest.

"It's sewer politics," said Gullick, 55, who beat Democrat James Miller two years ago. "And what I've been told is, even when they know their candidate can't win, their whole motive is to discredit you and get you to quit. What I've been told is, these guys intend to ruin you."

Boyd said he isn't in cahoots with any particular group: "I've had a lot of calls and support for me running. It's hard for me to say exactly who it was who called all those times."

South Carolinians for Responsible Government, or SCRG, doesn't endorse political candidates but says it works to educate voters about issues. Both organizations argue their ranks are filled with South Carolinians who are donating to their efforts and want changes in the Legislature.

Conservative activist Park Gillespie of Clover said it's fair to spotlight Gullick's votes. A Boyd supporter, Gillespie works with Greenville-based Conservatives in Action and has friends at SCRG.

"Is his record fair game?" Gillespie asked. "How a person votes, that's all you have. You've got to defend what you've done."

Other York County Republicans hoped Gullick would not face opposition in the primary.

"I'm upset over it because we've got enough races on our hands," said Joe St. John of Fort Mill. "We didn't need another one. We should not target our own. The voters will hold our candidates accountable."

Gullick, a self-described progressive conservative, has been a player in York County politics for nearly 20 years. His name showed up recently on a so-called "hit list" of moderate legislators being targeted by conservative groups with ties to Gov. Mark Sanford.

Sanford denies knowing of any plan to target specific Republican lawmakers.

School vouchers, also known as school choice, would allow tax credits for families who send their children to private schools. Sanford and others say competition will improve public education, particularly in low-performing areas.

"When you start adding competition, it definitely makes everything better," said Boyd, who founded Walnut Grove in 2001. "It's just the way things work. When you add competition, people work harder."

Expecting a challenge, Gullick said he raised $28,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007. The former chairman of the York County Council plans at least two more fundraisers.

"I'm going to stay on the issues," he said. "And I think the centerpiece issue is school vouchers. Do you want to take money away from the public schools to fund private schools? When it comes down to it, that's the race."

No Democrats declared for the seat, meaning the June 10 primary is essentially a winner-take-all contest.

Matt Garfield • 329-4063

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