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King faces challenge from Walker for S.C. House seat

John King and Robert “Bobby” Walker largely agree on what issues are important to District 49 residents in the race for S.C. House.

King, the incumbent, and Walker, in his first race for elected office, agree that ethics reform, education and transportation are among the top issues for York County voters in their district.

They disagree on what impact the initial that follows their name on the ballot has on their effectiveness.

King says his Democratic affiliation brings benefits to the area that an all-Republican delegation can’t deliver. His leadership positions with the state Democratic delegation and the legislative black caucus, help him gather votes which benefit York County, he said.

“An all-GOP delegation, or an all-caucasian delegation would not best serve York County,” King said. “We need to elect people of diversity to take the message to Columbia.”

Walker says he knows the current legislative delegation, has strong ties to county and city government and “it does make a difference to be part of the Republican team.”

Voters will decide on Nov. 4 whether to return King for a fourth term, or elect Walker.

South Carolina legislators make $10,400 a year, have an allowance to operate their office and serve constituents of $1,000 a month and a per diem expense allowance of $119.

District 49 is a peanut-shaped district that includes the southern portion of Rock Hill, rural areas south and west of the city, as well as a portion of York. The district is about 52 percent minority, drawn to meet standards of the Voting Rights Act to give minorities a chance to be elected.

King said he doesn’t look at those numbers, and that, “I’ve been fair in my votes, vocal but not overt in actions, and I didn’t warm a seat,” in the Legislature.

Walker, a Rock Hill-area native, acknowledges the district was drawn to give minorities a chance at election, “but it’s not a minority seat, not a Democratic seat. It’s the people’s seat. They deserve someone who will be a servant leader. We don’t have adequate representation. You need someone who will available, and I will be accessible.”

King said that he is always available to constituents, often answering their phone calls late into the night.

John King

Age: 38

Political experience: Three terms as state legislator, two terms on the Chester County Council, one term on the Chester City Council

Community involvement: Member Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Burning Bush Masonic Lodge 186, Freedom Temple Ministries

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Morehouse University in sociology, master’s degree from Strayer in education, associate degree in funeral science from Gupton-Jones.

Occupation: Funeral home director/owner, Christopher King’s Funeral Home/Bail Bondsman

On the issues

Ethics reform

“We need to find a better way of doing things, at all levels of government. It should not just be elected officials. There should be a greater impact from the people. (Legislators) shouldn’t govern ourselves.”

Education

“We are fortunate to have excellent schools in York County, but we need to fully fund our schools. We have to take care of our teachers, give them everything they need.

“For the past sessions, I’ve introduced a bill to repeal Act 388 (which shifted the tax burden for education from homeowners to businesses) but it has never seen the light of day. Repealing Act 388 is essential for public education. Empowering our children is important, we need to give them the skills to be a a workable workforce.

“Also our priority should be education, not prisons.”

Transportation

“We need to have great roads for people to ride on, but it’s also from a public policy standpoint, we have to have safe roads. Good roads also benefit economic development.

“We have one of the lowest gas taxes in the nation. It’s not a fix-all approach, but we need to look at raising the gas tax.

“There are other fundraising alternatives. People who can afford to spend $70,000 to $80,000 on a car, or buy a yacht, should pay more than the $300 in sales taxes (The sales and use tax is capped at $300 by state law.)

“We also have on the highest road fatalities rates. We need to put safety first.”

Health care

“We need to expand Medicaid, we are losing business without the expansion. There are between 44,000 and 45,000 people that are looking for jobs that would eligible for Medicaid. We need to have a healthy state, from children to adults. Expanding Medicaid would allow people to get back on their feet.”

Why vote for me?

“I have needs just like any other resident, but I’m not voting for John King, I’m voting for my constituents, the state. I return phone calls and my political record speaks for itself.”

Robert “Bobby” Walker

Age: 49

Political experience: None

Community involvement: Currently a member of the Rock Hill-York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, former member of the York County Cultural and Heritage Commission, York County Forever.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Presbyterian College in pre-med, medical degree from Nova Southeastern with other post-graduate studies at Clemson, USC, Winthrop and University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Occupation: Owner, president of Walter Medical Consultants

On the issues

Transportation

“It has to be fully funded. We need to make sure that all the gas tax money will be used for maintaining and repairing our roads, before we talk about raising the gasoline tax. The voters should have voice in whether to raise the gasoline tax.

“We also need to streamline the Department of Transportation and that might include restructuring. Money raised for infrastructure also needs to be fairly distributed. Too much of the money has gone to Charleston because of the influence of Glenn McConnell, (who served as the pro tem of the Senate) and Rep. Bobby Harrell, (who recently suspended himself as speaker of the House amid an ethics investigation) who are from there.”

Jobs and economic growth

“We’ve done OK, but we can do better. One of the things we need to make sure of is our education system is providing the right training, that we have workers who have the right skills for the jobs. If we don’t have skilled workers companies will bring in workers from North Carolina.

“We have a wonderful technical college system, but we can do more. Some of the technology training needs to start in the middle schools.”

Education

“We are putting a heavy burden on our businesses and we are killing the backbone of our economy to fund education. We need to reform Act 388, but that won’t happen. Property owners love it. We have to find another way to fund education.

“I’m all for public education, but there needs to be more choice. That doesn’t mean vouchers. We need to have more local control of schools, and we need to reform state funding so it’s more equitable to everyone.

Criminal and domestic violence

“We need to get to the root cause of the problems and toughen the first-time penalties. A first-time offense usually leads to a second-time offense.”

Ethics

“Every source of income needs to be reported, not necessarily the amounts but where they come from. We need to be transparent. Also, there has to be a third party to consider ethic issues. Voters deserve that.

Why vote for me?

“Voters don’t trust government; that’s one reason they stay home. I ask that they give me a chance to show what I can do. If they vote for me, I’ll represent them, help them through the bureaucratic mess. I’m not doing this for me.”

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