The York County Council’s 10-term incumbent touted his commitment to “the people” while his opponent painted that legacy as too long and ineffective at the candidates’ first debate Thursday.
Fort Mill school board Chairman Patrick White, 45, is challenging incumbent Curwood Chappell, 82, in the race for District 5, which includes the farmland surrounding McConnells and southern Rock Hill, then turns north to east of Fort Mill.
Sponsored by the York County Republican Party, the debate took place before about 100 people at Glen Rock Baptist Church where Chappell and White traded shots over their records on the council and school board.
White called for a better approach to economic development and said the council under Chappell’s leadership hasn’t worked hard enough to expand the tax base. A larger tax base, he said, would help the county pay for things such as raises for county employees.
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Chappell opposes raises and taxing people who are losing their homes and jobs to give them.
“Where is that golden rule?” he said. “We all could be tightening our belt, and doing a little more on a little less.”
But challenging Chappell’s commitment to taxpayers, White contended that giving county employees raises wouldn’t raise taxes. White asked why Chappell hasn’t proposed a tax decrease that would return the millions in the county’s reserves above the amount the county is required by law to maintain.
White said he’d like to have that money “back in the form of a tax decrease.”
When questioned about campaign contributions, White said his supporters are people he’s met through work, the military and church, and they know his character.
Chappell said he never takes contributions. He’s sent back thousands of dollars in checks “because I refused to take a dollar from anyone.... when they give you contributions, in my opinion, you’re selling your soul for a dollar,” he said.
“If you can’t stand before taxpayers ... and sell yourself without receiving their money, you have no business running for this seat.”
White responded, accusing Chappell of saying he never takes taxpayers’ money while he has been taking a salary during his 20-year tenure on the council.
That’s “almost $300,000 in salary that this man has taken from the taxpayers, but yet brags about never taking the taxpayers’ dime,” White said.
Vehemence versus analysis
Chappell and White traded shots over Chappell’s record of supporting some major distribution companies coming to York County while opposing others.
White accused Chappell of being swayed by “special interests,” but Chappell, who has championed the cause of residents in his district seeking to keep businesses or roads out of their neighborhoods, said he “will fight any type of outfit that wants to come in here that someone else wants to get rid of.”
Robert Lee, 74, of Rock Hill said he’s known Chappell for years and plans to vote for him again.
“He stands up for the people,” said Lee, who lives in the rural area east of Rock Hill where many hope to extend Dave Lyle Boulevard to a proposed bridge over the Catawba River into Lancaster County one day to increase development.
While many community leaders support that project, Chappell has vehemently opposed it, championing the cries of a group of residents in the area.
Lee, who described himself as “old-school,” said White is “an honest man, but he’s a newcomer.”
Fort Mill’s Allen Best, 50, said he’s leaning toward White, who takes “an analytical approach to decision-making.”
White is “less emotional, more fact-driven,” he said.
Chappell seems like an “honest man” who many people obviously respect, Best said, but a candidate who “can’t very specifically speak about things they have accomplished” won’t get his vote.