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Primary pits newcomer against long timer

A pair of Indian Land Republicans are vying to replace Mick Mulvaney in the state House this fall.

Deborah Long, an optometrist who owns the Fort Mill Vision Center, announced her candidacy this week, setting up a primary battle with Bruce Miller, a resident in the Sun City retirement community.

The two will face off on June 10 for the right to represent Fort Mill, Indian Land, Lancaster and Van Wyck. The District 45 seat opened because Mulvaney is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Greg Gregory. No Democrats have declared yet.

Long and Miller bring starkly different backgrounds to the contest. Long, 54, has lived in Indian Land for two decades, but she's never sought political office.

Miller, by contrast, is a relative newcomer to the area. The Philadelphia native lived for seven years in southern California before moving to Sun City in January 2007. A veteran GOP activist, he founded the Sun City Republican Club, which has 107 active members.

The two candidates have never met.

Reacting to carpetbagger label

Miller, 65, expects to be viewed as a carpetbagger by some but wants to flip that label by arguing he brings a fresh perspective.

"I don't look at it as an issue," he said. "No matter where our roots are, this is now our home. I have learned to really appreciate and care for this area, even though I'm only 15 months old, so to speak. It doesn't mean I can't look at it and see, 'Hmm, here's something that needs addressing.'"

Long hired the Columbia consulting firm Starboard Communications to help manage her campaign. Miller is running his own operation but said he might soon hire a consultant.

"I guess you can say I'm not the old guard because I wasn't born and raised here," Long said. "But I've been here for 20 years. I'm pretty well-known in my community, and I have contact with so many people on a daily basis."

The lightning rod issue of school vouchers could figure prominently into the debate.

Long said her views on so-called school choice are similar to those of Mulvaney, the man she hopes to succeed.

"As long as we don't detract or take anything away from our (local) school system, I have no problem with vouchers or tax credits or whatever they want to call them," she said.

Miller supports the idea in theory but fears parents would overwhelm the system if they all choose one school they think is best. He hasn't seen a school-choice plan presented in South Carolina that he believes would work. "I'm middle of the road," he said.

In his bid for the state Senate, Mulvaney is unlikely to get a primary challenge. Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster awaits in the general election.

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