In the race for the state Senate in District 16, we endorse Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell.
This seat came open with the retirement of long-time Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster. Norrell's Republican opponent is state Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who has served one House term representing District 45.
This was a difficult race to call. For one thing, the tenor of the campaign has been abominable, consisting largely of personal attacks instead of the important issues facing the district.
A low point was reached this week with the initiation of a nasty robo-call against Norrell from a fictitious organization. Mulvaney adamantly denies any connection with the robo-call, and we may never know its origin. Nonetheless, it highlights the poisonous drift of this campaign, which also ranks as the most expensive in the history of the district.
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Mulvaney, an Indian Land real estate developer, has several points in his favor, and it was only after long debate that we settled on Norrell. Foremost, Mulvaney has the advantage of two years of experience in the House.
His entire House district is part of Senate District 16, which includes Lancaster County and part of Fort Mill. He contends that his conservative views are more in line with the constituents of the district.
He supports capping government spending and either returning surpluses to taxpayers or putting them in a rainy day fund. He also favors ending all business taxes as an incentive for new business and industry to move to the state.
Regarding school funding, Mulvaney favors a simpler, per-pupil funding system -- commonly referred to as "backpacking" -- giving local school districts more autonomy in how the money is used. He thinks teachers should be placed on a merit-based pay-raise system.
Mulvaney supports school choice within districts in the public school system, including more charter schools, virtual schools and Montessori schools. That is a different slant than he offered as recently as mid-September.
In a Sept. 16 story in The Herald, Mulvaney said, "I see vouchers as part and parcel of the overall choice package. You want to send your kid to the local Christian school, the local Montessori or the regular mainline school? Those are three choices that I think are all valid in South Carolina. Or should be."
One significant problem we have with Mulvaney is that he accepted $7,000 in his 2006 House campaign from Howard Rich, a wealthy New Yorker and a leading national proponent of school vouchers. The extent of the donations were not revealed by the candidate until after the election.
Norrell said she opposes vouchers: "It's taking public money and giving it to private schools. I don't think it will help." Like Mulvaney's most recent stance, she supports school choice in the public school system.
Norrell is a Lancaster native, whose family has lived in the city for 13 generations. She is the only bankruptcy lawyer in town, and she has served as city attorney since 1998.
She calls Act 388, the property tax reform bill, which shifted most of the burden for funding school operations statewide from homeowners to a 1-cent sales tax and business property taxes, a terrible idea. She believes it took away a stable way of funding education and replaced it with an unstable one that put too much burden on businesses.
Norrell is a committed environmentalist. One of her proposals for bringing new jobs to the district is to encourage production of wind turbines both as a source of energy and a marketable product. We're not sure that is entirely practical, but the idea is novel.
She is in favor of extending Rock Hill's Dave Lyle Boulevard into Lancaster County. She believes it would provide a safer route between the two counties and would encourage new business and industry.
Finally, we think the state Senate needs more women. Sen. Linda Short, D-Chester, who retired this year, was the only female senator.
As noted, this was a close call, but we believe Norrell is capable, smart, amiable and up to the job.
We urge voters to support her on Tuesday.
Attributes of both candidates were overshadowed by the nasty nature of this race.