In the race for state House District 46, we endorse incumbent Gary Simrill.
The district includes much of Rock Hill but also western stretches such as Newport. Simrill was the first Republican to win the seat in 1992, and he has held it ever since. He now ranks 22nd in the House in seniority and sits on the Ways & Means Committee, which handles the state's money.
We think his long service in the Legislature and a solid record of constituent service give him the edge over his Democratic opponent, Herb Crump, pastor of Freedom Temple Ministries in downtown Rock Hill.
We do not see eye to eye with Simrill on every issue. For example, he believes Act 388, the recent property tax reform bill, provided warranted tax relief for property owners. We believe it primarily benefited owners of large, expensive homes and that it has been a disaster for fast-growing school districts, who now must rely almost solely on a one-cent sales tax for operating revenues.
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Simrill also voted against a 50-cent increase in South Carolina's cigarette tax, which, at 7 cents a pack, remains the lowest in the nation. We thought the tax should be raised, with revenues used to boost Medicaid coverage.
Simrill said he feared that raising the tax that much would hurt tobacco vendors by making them less competitive with those in nearby states with a lower tax. However, now that North Carolina has raised its cigarette tax, he supports a 30-cent hike in South Carolina.
Simrill supports efforts to prevent the transfer of water from the Catawba River out of its basin to provide water to the North Carolina cities of Concord and Kannapolis. Simrill served on a subcommittee that committed $1.4 million to S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster to battle the proposal in court.
Simrill, who owns Carolina Motorworks dealership, brings a business perspective to the job. He has been a consistent champion of small business in the state. He also has been highly rated by the National Federation of Small Businesses.
Crump, who built his ministry from a small storefront church to one that now boasts 2,000 members, has become a familiar face on the local political scene. Since arriving in Rock Hill in 1994, Crump has made three tries for elective office.
In 1999, he ran for the City Council's Ward 3 seat, losing to incumbent Kevin Sutton. In 2005, he ran for mayor, losing to incumbent Doug Echols.
In opposing Simrill, Crump said he would bring consistent passion and a commitment to the community to the job. He is past president of the York County NAACP, the first black member of the Rock Hill Kiwanis Club, a member of the York County Workforce Development Committee and an auxiliary probation officer with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Crump said his top priority as a state representative would be quality education. He opposed Act 388 and would oppose any attempt to introduce vouchers or tax credits for attending private schools. He does, however, support school choice within school districts.
Crump would ban payday lending in the state. He also calls for cutting red tape and providing new incentives to help the state attract high-tech businesses.
Both candidates, we think, are capable. We give the nod to Simrill because, we believe, his experience and knowledge of how the Legislature works will be crucial in a time of scary economic uncertainty.
Gary Simrill, with 16 years in the S.C. House, has a big advantage in terms of experience.