The District 17 state Senate seat is open this year because of the retirement of longtime Sen. Linda Short, D-Chester, currently the only women member of the Senate. The seat covers part of York and Union counties and all of Chester and Fairfield counties.
Both the Democratic and Republican primaries are contested. In the Democratic primary, we endorse Creighton Coleman. Coleman represents Winnsboro in the S.C. House and is the only candidate from either party in this race who has held an elected public office.
After eight years in the House as part of the minority party, he said he would enjoy moving to the Senate, where Democrats have a stronger presence.
Coleman is a graduate of The Citadel and the University of South Carolina Law School. He was a law clerk for Circuit Judge Don Rushing and worked as a prosecutor for five years before starting his own practice.
Coleman said he is an advocate for smarter state spending. While he opposes tax increases in principle, he said he has voted 15 to 20 times to increase the cigarette tax. He thinks using the revenues to help finance Medicaid make sense because the state would benefit significantly from the three-to-one match in federal funding.
He supported Act 388, which replaced property taxes for school operations with a 1-cent sales tax. He said, however, that he would prefer uniform per-student funding with added money for handicapped and low-income students who qualify for free lunches.
Leah Moody, a Rock Hill attorney, and Michael Squirewell, a Ridgeway developer and home builder, are the other two Democrats in this race.
Moody is daughter of state Rep. Bessie Moody-Lawrence, D-Rock Hill, who retired this year from the Legislature. Moody is a 1988 graduate of Northwestern High School, and a graduate of Hampton University in Virginia and the University of South Carolina Law School.
She served as deputy general counsel to former Gov. Jim Hodges and later as staff counsel for the state Senate Judiciary Committee. She also is active in a variety of local civic and charitable organizations.
Squirewell is a graduate of Winthrop University in business administration. He said he is committed to bringing programs such as the Boys and Girls Club into public schools, and believes that all students should have access to computers.
While Moody brings enthusiasm to the campaign, we believe that Coleman's considerable experience in the Legislature makes him the best candidate in this primary.
The Republican primary features two candidates, Joanie Winters, attorney for the city of Chester, and Mark Bennett, a Richburg truck driver. We think Winters is the clear choice in this race.
Winters moved to Chester County 12 years ago from Pennsylvania. She cites the erosion of home rule as one of her chief concerns, saying local government can better discern their needs than the state.
She also believes improving the state's education system is a high priority.
Bennett, her opponent, is a Lewisville High School graduate and attended the University of South Carolina-Lancaster.
High taxes, he believes, are the bane of government. He has signed the S.C. Association of Taxpayers "No New Tax Pledge," and said he would oppose any tax increase, even if it were match by a corresponding tax cut.
He also believes that illegal immigrants should be denied all social services.
We think Winters' more moderate political philosophy makes her the preferable candidate in this primary.
Democrat Coleman and Republican Winters are favored in two contested primaries.
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