After a campaign plagued by scandal in 2006 and a dramatic third-party challenge this summer, the two major party candidates for S.C. House District 115 representing James Island and Folly Beach are sticking to the issues. Republican Rep. Wallace Scarborough held onto his seat by a scant 40 votes in the last election, but he's confident his stock has risen. Democrat Anne Peterson-Hutto says that voters aren't getting the ear of their legislators.
Peterson-Hutto is a newcomer to politics. She's lived on the island for 12 years and works as a local attorney. With two small children, she says her number one priority is education.
"We've been last on too many lists for too long," she says.
Teachers are concerned about pay and discipline, Peterson-Hutto says, while parents are telling her quality has to improve. Money siphoned by the state needs to come back to Charleston schools, she says, and teachers need more support, including additional resources and salary increases.
Many James Island residents are spending too much alone time with their cars in the daily commute, Peterson-Hutto says. Highway funds need to be increased, she says, as well as funding for alternatives like bike lanes and walking trails. These programs in particular could pull some of the school-year traffic off of the roads, she says. Improved mass transit will be important and another key will be closely monitoring developments.
"There's only so much these two islands can take," she says.
The state's economic crisis will take a bipartisan approach, Peterson-Hutto says, as well as more careful consideration than across-the-board cuts.
"We're going to have to make sure we keep our eye on our priorities," she says. "The danger is simplifying the problem."
Peterson-Hutto says the state needs to keep all options on the table regarding the blossoming energy debate in the Statehouse, looking at wind and solar energy and whether nuclear energy is feasible considering lingering waste concerns.
Accessibility will be a top priority for Peterson-Hutto if she's elected.
"People want to be able to talk to their representative," she says.
Scarborough, a local insurance agent with two children of his own, has spent eight years in the legislature.
He's happy to point to his recent endorsement by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. He says he's worked very hard on green issues like beach renourishment and stopping bridges to small islands.
"I vote green," he says.
The state has been fostering alternative energy, Scarborough says, including grants and tax incentives for hydrogen research. If the debate over off-shore drilling reaches the Statehouse, there will be serious questions to weigh.
"If we drill, it can't be a detriment to our coastline or tourism," he says.
The equitable funding for schools will continue to be an issue, Scarborough says. He proposes funding schools on a per student basis and sending that funding with students if they transfer between schools. Scarborough also wants more parent investment by giving them more control over spending and curriculum at individual schools.
"They don't feel like they have a voice," he says.
With a mandate to balance the budget, Scarborough says lean times are going to make tough choices necessary.
"There's only two things you can do: raise taxes or cut services," he says.
The key will be seeking out waste and consolidating programs, Scarborough says, echoing calls made by Gov. Mark Sanford for reform.
Changes in Medicaid should help fill some of the funding gap. Scarborough says he's working with others to propose tax incentives to get people to voluntarily exit the state's Medicaid program.
"It should be a safety net," he says. "Not an entitlement program."
There's little that can be done about traffic, Scarborough says, aside from efforts to replace failing bridges and improve dangerous intersections. Other road projects would either be cost prohibitive or largely unpopular, he says, but he welcomes alternatives.
Scarborough says his family has a history of working for the people of James Island and the Charleston area and he's still committed to constituent service. He also says his time in the Statehouse has built seniority that secures state aid for local needs.
Scarborough: under construction