Former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash said he was working in his office in Afghanistan when he realized this nation was going broke helping a foreign country secure its borders, so he decided to return home and try to change that.

“I'm not a lawyer. I'm a lawman,” he said recently. “We don't have a single sheriff in Congress as far as I can tell. I Googled it. If you want to shake things up, send a sheriff to Congress.”

Nash, who also served as Summerville's police chief before serving 12 years as sheriff, said he is running to limit government in many ways, including its spending, its regulations and the complexity of its tax code.

On the campaign trail, he said most of the nation's problems can be traced to its drift away from the Constitution, and he often repeats a quote from George Washington, who said government is “like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

“This campaign is about saving America,” Nash said, “and I don't mean to be flippant about that.”

He said he would push to pass a balanced-budget amendment and the Fair Tax, a plan to replace the current income tax with a national sales tax structured so it would not overly hurt those with the lowest incomes.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

The Post and Courier will profile all 18 Republican and Democratic 1st Congressional District candidates by the March 19 primaries. This is the fifth installment.

Asked what he would cut, Nash said across-the-board cuts often don't work well, but he would favor targeting the Department of Education and President Barack Obama's federal health care plan.

“I think some of these programs need to be starved to death, and Congress has the power to do that,” he said.

Nash said what separates him from the field is a 34-year law-enforcement career, including his accomplishments as sheriff, when he helped oversee a drop in Dorchester County's crime rate.

Nash chose not to seek re-election in 2008, not too long after an audit uncovered about $360,000 missing from a jail fund.

Nash said he called in state authorities as soon as he knew of the possible theft. “It happened on my watch. I'm accountable for it in that sense,” he said, adding that he was cleared in the investigation and an officer later pleaded guilty to theft.

“It certainly taught me a valuable lesson of trusting people under your command,” he said. “There has to be a certain degree of accountability.”

His challenge during this abbreviated campaign is to introduce himself to as many as possible, particularly beyond Dorchester County. “We're going to be outspent significantly in this campaign,” he said, “but I'm confident it's not all about money.”

“I've got a loud voice. That comes from being a sheriff. That comes from being a leader. That comes from being a teacher.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.