When John Graham Altman (R-West Ashley) left the Statehouse in 2006, four GOP candidates vied for the slot. It eventually went to Democrat Leon Stavrinakis, who'd been Charleston County Council chairman. Stavrinakis' appeal across party lines can likely best be summed up by the fact that, in this majority Republican district, the only person running against him this time is the guy who placed fourth in that GOP horse race two years ago.
This will be Chris Cannon's sixth race for public office. He considers himself a moderate: "ultra" conservative on fiscal policy, but more liberal on social issues.
"The amount of money we're throwing away ... it's ridiculous," Cannon says.
He points to the yearly Christmas list of items that Gov. Mark Sanford has vetoed over the years.
"It's nothing but pork," Cannon says, from the tourist trips for foreign officials, to the eccentric museums, to the local festivals that he says should pay for themselves.
But Sanford's vetoes are routinely ignored by a legislature that's very adept at taking care of its own.
Cannon and Stavrinakis support restructuring the power in Columbia to give more authority to the governor, and both are calling for the completion of Interstate 526, connecting James Island to West Ashley.
"The development is coming whether we build 526 or not," Cannon says. "If anything, it might alleviate some traffic."
Cannon is a supporter of school vouchers or tax credits for parents who send their kids to private schools, but he also wants to see a shift in the tax burden when it comes to education.
"I don't mind paying some, but I don't think I should pay as much as someone with kids in the system," he says.
With a wealth of state-maintained roads and a lack of money to spend on improving them, Cannon supports increasing the state's historically low gas tax. But he'd wait until the prices drop to a reasonable level.
Off-shore drilling shouldn't be a given, but Cannon says he'd support explorations to see what's out there. He also thinks that the state is well-situated to be a nuclear energy hub.
"We should lead the world in nuclear research," he says. "We should have a whole research industry built around that."
Stavrinakis is planning to head back to Columbia in January with the learning curve behind him.
South Carolina's struggling schools have always been a priority for Stavrinakis, and he says he'll continue to seek fundamental changes in the system.
"It's important our resources get to the heart of where they need to go — which is to teachers in the classrooms," he says.
Stavrinakis is on the subcommittee reviewing education funding, and he's hopeful for progress, but it will likely require more money for schools.
"You can't make progress if you have to cut programs," he says.
Stavrinakis is also calling for four-year-old kindergarten.
To pay for it, he's proposing altering plans to increase the state's cigarette tax from 50 cents to $1, with the remainder going toward education.
"It seemed like the issue (of four-year-old kindergarten) went away when surplus funds went away," he says. "That's just not acceptable."
To compete with other states for business, Stavrinakis says South Carolina needs to focus on improving both education and infrastructure.
"That means sites, that means roads, that means rail, that means a smart, skilled workforce," he says. "We have a lot of ground to make up on that."
As 21st century jobs go elsewhere, Stavrinakis says the Palmetto State relied too long on the tourist economy — which struggles during economic downtimes.
"The fact is we haven't been advancing job creation in South Carolina over the last six years," he says.
He'll continue to encourage regional growth, including requirements for municipalities to respect comprehensive plans.
The looming energy debate is going to have to include compromise and may require some short-term investment in off-shore drilling, Stavrinakis says.
"We can't sustain ourselves on oil alone, but people do need relief," he says. "We need to find ways to help the consumer."
Stavrinakis will reintroduce legislation to enhance tax incentives for solar, wind, and other renewable energies and he would let companies investing in those technologies purchase their equipment tax free.
Cannon: No website