Crump to challenge Simrill for S.C. House

State Rep. Gary Simrill avoided one big-name Democratic challenger, but another narrowly beat the deadline to challenge him this fall.

Pastor Herb Crump of Freedom Temple Ministries will take on Simrill in what figures to be one of the area's more spirited political contests. Crump leads a downtown church that claims 2,000 members. He's also president of the Rock Hill NAACP.

"You could never serve too much," Crump said. "In the church, I can pray about change. But as a state representative, I can help legislate change. I think I can be a strong voice in Columbia."

Earlier this year, Democrat Kathy Pender flirted with a run but opted to continue her second term on the Rock Hill City Council. So, instead of an establishment type who prefers to avoid controversy, Simrill will face an outspoken opponent who relishes it.

Crump, 38, filed paperwork on Sunday, the last day for candidates to register.

"He's a worthy adversary," said Simrill, 41. "I've said from the get-go, the seat does not belong to me. I've been very fortunate to have the people of Rock Hill elect me eight times. I have enjoyed my service, and this campaign will be no different from any before it."

District 46 went Republican for the first time when Simrill won in 1992. Wes Hayes, now a state senator, held the seat from 1984 to 1991. Back then, Hayes was a Democrat.

The district includes much of Rock Hill, but also western stretches such as Newport that tend to lean conservative. Of the 20,000 registered voters in the district, 83 percent are white.

"That'll be a tough nut to crack," said Rick Whisonant, a political scientist at York Technical College. "The key is for Herb to promote a very vigorous, aggressive voter registration drive. He's going to need all this time until November to campaign in areas in which he's never really campaigned in."

Since coming to Rock Hill in 1994, Crump has established himself as a familiar face on the political scene. He ran for mayor in 2005, losing to incumbent Doug Echols. Six years earlier, he ran for the City Council's Ward 3 seat, losing to incumbent Kevin Sutton.

"What I've learned is that problems don't discriminate," Crump said. "And people want leadership that speaks clearly and consistently. The day of political double-talk is over. People don't want it anymore."

Simrill, who owns Carolina Motorworks car dealership, has risen to No. 22 in the House in terms of seniority and sits on the Ways & Means Committee, which handles the money.

Both candidates said they expect to take part in a number of debates prior to the November election. Neither faces opposition in the primary.