Politics & Government

State House: District 48 candidates see eye to eye on schools, differ on representation

FORT MILL -- Apart from participating in Model United Nations in college and helping out with the Inez Tenenbaum campaign, James Miller has never run for public office.

But that didn't stop him from volunteering to be the Democratic candidate for Ralph Norman's General Assembly seat earlier this year.

"I said if you can't find anybody better, I'll do it," said Miller, 25. "I would have done it anyway, just to help the party out. I have been kind of called to civic life."

The District 48 state seat represents Miller's hometown of Fort Mill and also Tega Cay, Lake Wylie and the northern part of Rock Hill. But for at least eight years, Republicans haven't faced Democratic opposition for the seat.

Miller, a computer technician, is up against Republican Carl Gullick, a consultant in Lake Wylie, and an older, more politically experienced opponent.

Gullick, 53, is former chairman of the York County Council and former president of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. He is running because he wants to return autonomy to local authorities, he said.

"I'm very concerned about the legislation that's gone through in the past few years," Gullick said. "With this area, there's a huge amount of challenges that are fairly unique to South Carolina. And the legislation needs to reflect that."

Gullick's major campaign goals include securing more funding for public education, increasing economic development and preserving open spaces in the district's fast-growing areas.

Miller's campaign goals aren't very different. He wants more state funding for public education and more money put into improving the state's roads, which are third most dangerous in the country, he said.

Both want greater support for local colleges and are against vouchers. Neither are for the Catawba River interbasin water transfer or the state's new property tax act, which replaces residential property tax for schools with a 1-cent sales tax. The effect of the act is expected to be especially harsh for fast-growing school districts such as Clover, Rock Hill and Fort Mill.

"A lot of the sales money generated by York County will be going away from York County," Gullick said of the act. "The last thing we need to do is become even less competitive from an economic development standpoint than we already are."

The two disagree on whether a representative should advocate solely for the needs of his individual district or also consider the needs of the whole state.

Miller said making decisions in the best interest of the state is in the best interest of the district, while Gullick advocates district-centered needs such as local infrastructure and economic development.

The winner of the District 48 race will serve for two years.