In the race for state House District 45, we endorse Democrat Fred Thomas.
District 45 covers northeastern York County, including Fort Mill, and northern Lancaster County. The seat came open when incumbent Mick Mulvaney, a Republican, decided to run for the state Senate seat held by Greg Gregory, who chose not to seek re-election.
Thomas, who teaches history at Lancaster High School and is on the staff of the Lancaster Golf Club and McMullen Funeral Home, also is a six-year member of the Lancaster County Council. He serves as vice chairman of the council.
We think his experience in elective office and in various roles in Columbia would serve him well in the House. Shortly after graduating from the University of South Carolina, where he majored in political science, he served as chief page for state Rep. Tom Mangum. When Jim Hodges was elected governor in 1999, Thomas was tapped to serve as ombudsman for the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.
He lists education as one of his top issues. He believes that Act 388, the property tax relief bill that switched funding for school operations to a one-cent sales tax, was a mistake that made school funding unstable and unpredictable.
He would seek incentives to help lure new businesses to the state, helping to make the transition from manufacturing to high-tech industries. He also would work to bring a branch of York Technical College to Lancaster County.
Thomas supports raising the state's cigarette tax and using the money to pay for health-care programs. He also believes a cigarette tax hike would discourage young people from smoking.
Thomas opposes vouchers and tax credits for those who send their children to private schools. While his opponent, Republican Deborah Long, also said she opposes vouchers, she received $12,000 in campaign contributions during the primary from out-of-state donors connected with New York millionaire Howard Rich, one of the nation's most prominent voucher supporters.
Long, seeking to quell the controversy, returned the money Monday. She said the money had not influenced her stand on vouchers in any way. It is surprising, however, that, with the extensive news coverage of Rich, she said she was unaware of who he was when she received a check from him.
Thomas says that 80 percent of his campaign funds have come from donors in York and Lancaster counties.
Long, an optometrist who operates the Fort Mill Vision Center, favors an extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard in Rock Hill to Lancaster County, saying the extension would encourage new businesses in both counties. She also thinks Act 388 was a mistake that destabilizes funding for education.
Long, to her credit, has run a business for 25 years. However, we think Thomas' experience and knowledge of state and local government make him the favorite in this race.
Fred Thomas has experience as an elected official and has worked in the capital.