Challenger says he'll follow conservative ideals

Kimberly DickMay 19, 2008 

Kenny Ruffin hopes to defeat incumbent York County Councilman Joe Cox in a rematch for the western York County seat using the same ideals he claims Cox preached and failed to follow.

Ruffin and Cox will face off again for the District 3 Republican nomination in the June 10 primary. The winner faces the Democratic candidate, York Mayor Eddie Lee, in November.

Ruffin, 33, claims Cox didn't act on the conservative principals he ran on in 2006. If elected, Ruffin has plans to stop all new spending and take steps to consolidate county government.

Cox, 44, said it's hard to keep promises when the seat is just one of seven votes -- that's why he didn't make any while running for the seat two years ago.

"I never made promises," Cox said. "I had concerns, not promises. I had issues like 'Pennies for Progress' and hospital competition. I've addressed every issue I had."

Cox, a home builder and former mayor of Sharon, sees his political experience and background in the Coast Guard as an edge over Ruffin's experience because it taught him an understanding of running a budget and how things operate. He said there's nothing he'd change about his first 18 months on the council.

"No one from my district has come up to me and said they didn't agree with my vote on something," Cox said. "Votes came from my heart and my district's heart."

Standing up for rural needs

In his second try for the seat, Ruffin is counting on voters to see that his plans differ from the man he backed after his defeat in the 2006 election. Ruffin placed third in a three-way Republican battle for the seat two years ago, coming in closely behind Cox. Cox beat then-incumbent Steve McNeely in a run-off election and defeated Democrat Will Bigger in the general election.

"My opponent takes the approach that people exist to fund government. I feel the total opposite end of the spectrum," Ruffin said, "that government exists for people."

Ruffin, a machinist at Clover Tool Grinding, said he'll have no problem fighting for the issues unique to his district, including protecting quality of life for farmers.

"I'll stand up for the rural needs because I live here and I talk to these people," Ruffin said. "It's part of who I am and where I grew up."

Ruffin said he's paid attention to council issues and could bring his common sense and understanding of them to the table right away.

Ruffin wants to shrink the county's government by cutting spending, saying Cox has been too "big business" in his first term.

"We need roads, police, fire and rescue, but we don't need bike trails and other amenities," Ruffin said. "We can't grow government at the rate we are and expect people to be able to live."

Cox said Ruffin needs to evaluate the terms "big government," pointing to his vote against the study for extending Dave Lyle Boulevard.

"I don't think I'm big government," he said. "I'm very conservative with tax dollars, not letting the money flow freely."

Ruffin wants to make sure the S.C. 5 bypass, a 1997 Pennies for Progress project, is completed by the time the new York high school needs the route. He acknowledged how tough a job that could be, but offered no alternatives to fund the recently discovered $22.8 million shortfall.

"I'm just wanting to fix the problems we have now, not drift from one problem to the next," he said.

Fighting for District 3

In a second term on County Council, Cox said he'll continue to fight for District 3 on issues such as repairing roads, getting better fire protection and stopping a proposed landfill on Quarry Road.

Cox said he has no plans to back down on the battle against building a construction and debris landfill in his district. A solid waste citizen's committee is expected to present a new solid waste plan to the council soon, and Cox said if it recommends a landfill in his district, he'll renew his concerns that the landfill could contaminate the area's drinking water.

"I'll fight tooth and nail against it," he said. "It's not me losing if they put a landfill on Quarry Road, it's my district losing."

Cox said he's done as much as he possibly can to fix the roads in his district with the money available. He also wants to make sure the next Pennies for Progress committee has a representative from the western side of the county. His intention is to have the next Pennies referendum include more roads in his district.

While Cox is unveiling a plan for seven fire substations, mostly in his district, Ruffin wants to see the volunteer department better funded with newer equipment. Ruffin said substations are a good idea, but he's worried about giving the county more control over how the volunteer fire departments are run.

County councilmen serve two-year terms and are paid $15,500 a year.

Kimberly Dick • 329-4082

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