State Senate candidate Creighton Coleman pitches himself as a conservative Democrat who can use relationships in Columbia to advocate for the rural counties of District 17.
His opponent, Republican Mark Bennett, sees a higher calling in what he admits is a longshot run. A self-described Christian constitutional conservative, Bennett wants to bring God back into the public schools to halt America's slide into what he considers a moral abyss.
"We both feel that when government leaders decided to take prayer and any mention of God out of our schools, that was when the country's morality truly started to decline," Bennett's wife, Debbie, wrote on his campaign Web site.
Asked to sum up their differences, Coleman was succinct: "Mark's a little more fundamentalist than I," he said.
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The winner will replace retiring Linda Short, D-Chester, in the District 17 seat that represents all of Chester and Fairfield counties and parts of York and Union counties.
Coleman was in the third grade when his father, George Coleman Jr., ran for Congress in a five-way Democratic primary won by Tom Gettys. The elder Coleman went on to enjoy a long career as a judge, prosecutor and legislator.
To continue the family's political legacy, his son must maneuver past a truck driver and part-time racer known as "The Richburg Rocket."
That's the nickname Bennett uses when he drives race cars at area speedways. If elected, Bennett says he would leave the rocket at home, but he'd take to Columbia a desire to expand gun rights.
Bennett cites the Virginia Tech tragedy, in which a gunman killed 32 students and faculty members before killing himself, as justification for his views.
"The constant, liberal attack on our 2nd ammendment (sic) has allowed tragedies like the Virginia Tech massacre to occur," Bennett explains on his Web site, adding it "could have been brought to halt if any staff or students (with a concealed weapons permit) would have been allowed to bring their weapon onto campus."
Bennett says he hasn't had much time to raise money. He finished the last quarter with $24 left in contributions after spending $681 on campaign expenses. Coleman has spent $84,000 since the race began, leaving him with $11,000 in contributions.
The election is Nov. 4.
To read more stories about local races, visit heraldonline.com/election2008
S.C. SENATE DISTRICT 17 CANDIDATES
Mark Bennett, Republican
• Age: 39; born Feb. 13, 1969
• Education: Lewisville High School graduate, attended University of South Carolina-Lancaster
• Career: Truck driver
• Family: Wife, Debbie; two sons, James and John
• Political experience: None
Creighton Coleman, Democrat
• Age: 52; born May 12, 1956
• Education: Degree in political science from The Citadel, 1979; USC School of Law, law degree, 1985
• Career: General practice attorney
• Family: Wife, Marion; three children, Buchanan, McNair and Marion Walker
• Political experience: Eight years in the state House, District 41