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This Week: Chris Cannon (R), House Seat 119

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Chris Cannon is a runner, though not in the aerobic sense — he runs for political office. Despite not having crossed the finish line victorious in three consecutive House races in the 1990s, still he runs.

Cannon points out, with chuckling pride, that he garnered roughly 40 percent of the vote each time he ran against former state Rep. Curtis Inabinett (D). Of course, he admits, those who voted for him were probably just pulling the straight Republican Party lever.

"I initially got into the race because no one would oppose the Democrats," says Cannon of the largely-black district.

In 2000, his last race, Johns Islander Cannon lost yet again, this time to local lawyer and fellow GOPer Curtis Bostic in the Republican primary. But, Cannon swears, chuckling again, it was because Bostic's name appeared first on the ballot.

This time out, Cannon, a local one-man tour guide company, had to step down as vice chair of the Charleston County Republican Party before he laced up his running shoes.

So what drives Cannon to "just do it"? It seems that it's his burning desire to help Gov. Mark Sanford, who, Cannon says, has not received the support from the state legislature to do the job the people elected him to do: save money, streamline government, and cut taxes.

"He's made a few mistakes," says Cannon, referring to Sanford's apparent desire to "privatize" Santee Cooper, "and I don't support him 100 percent of the time. But I have generally supported him since he was in Congress and the votes were always 400 to 3, and he was one of the three."

Unlike Sanford, who never met a tax he didn't hate, Cannon likes the idea of increasing cigarette taxes in South Carolina. "Some," says the former cigarette smoker who still dabbles with cigars and pipes, "but not too drastically. Seeing as we've got the lowest cigarette tax in the country, we could probably double it and nobody would notice."

Cannon would use increased state tax revenues, surging because the recession that began five years ago has ebbed, to more fully fund law enforcement, primarily putting more state troopers on the road and more DNR officers in the field.

While he's not as gung-ho as the governor for school vouchers, Cannon likes the idea of parents having as much choice as possible in selecting where they send their kids. A 1975 graduate of Bishop England, Cannon firmly believes he got a "helluva lot better education" at the private school than he would have attending a public high school.

A self-described "fiscal conservative," Cannon sounds like state Rep. John Graham Altman III, who will vacate the Dist. 119 seat at the end of this term, when he talks about how convinced he is that what ails public education is its cumbersome and top-heavy administration.

Unlike Altman, Cannon is very much against the idea of deconsolidating the Charleston County School District because, "if anything, it would just create more administration."

Cannon also says that, if he were elected, he would be "far more diplomatic" than Altman, whom he still respects on several levels.

"I really liked John Graham — on certain things — because he was direct and didn't straddle the fence, and even if you didn't agree with what he was saying, at least you knew where he stood."

If Cannon were to survive the tough, four-candidate Republican primary this June and defeat County Council Chairman Leon Stavrinakis (D) in November, he hopes he would be more like Altman — in that he would calmly debate anyone on any issue, versus a "certain local powerful legislator," whom Cannon says looks down his nose at questions from the public.

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