Dorchester District 4 race a battle of conservatives
Dorchester County Council Chairman Larry Hargett, a nine-year incumbent, is facing a challenge from a man who says he’s not conservative enough.
Family: Married, three children, eight grandchildren
Education: B.S. in business administration, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C.; computer science, Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, N.Y.; MBA courses, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.
Occupation: IT real-estate database sales and marketing
Previous elected office: Nine years on Dorchester County Council, currently chairman
Why are you running for office: To facilitate smart growth initiatives while insuring a good quality of life, good jobs, good public safety, good public schools, and good roads with environmental and historic place safeguards in place.
What’s the toughest issue facing the county: Growth management, roads and economic development initiatives while also maintaining a low property tax structure.
John Hull, Hargett’s challenger for the District 4 seat in the Republican primary, is chairman of the Summerville 9-12 Project, which espouses tea party values and principles, such as limited government and free markets. Hargett is a member. But Hull says he would do a better job applying those conservative principles to county government.
Family: Married, one son
Education: Harvard University, undergraduate; The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, MBA
Occupation: Residential real-estate investor
Previous elected office: None
Why running for office: I am a conservative constitutionalist. America is the “Great Experiment” that worked. For too long we have been abandoning the blueprint of our success, i.e., the Constitution. If all politics is local, then it is time we enforce the values and principles that made America great at the local level. I am running to represent “we the people.” I will protect people’s rights, not wants.
What’s the toughest issue facing the county: The federal government has been placing unfunded mandates on our state. Now the state is expected to push related financial burdens onto the counties. “Trickle down” passing the buck will greatly add to the financial pressure at a time when raising taxes is unconscionable.
For instance, when it comes to managing growth to relieve the county’s overcrowded schools, Hull said he would resist zoning that infringes on property rights. Instead, he would propose that the county create a district where people without children in public schools could live and not pay school taxes.
“The goal should be to let the free market decide,” he said.
Hargett said Hull’s vision isn’t practical.
“County Council could not do that by law,” Hargett said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea anyway. He wants to talk about liberty and freedom, our country and stuff. I believe all that too, but it really doesn’t have much to do with running for County Council.”
Hargett took the lead in drafting the county’s Ashley River Historic Overlay District, which limited development along S.C. Highway 61. The ordinance was inspired by a developer’s plans to build thousands of houses at Watson Hill near Middleton Place plantation.
Hull also said council has not been aggressive enough in cutting back government, especially in a time of financial uncertainty. For instance, the county should not have spent $5 million on a new park, he said, referring to the Richard Rosebrock Park at Highway 61 and Bacon’s Bridge Road.
“I think they paid an awful lot of money for that land,” Hull said. “I think the price tag at this point and the timing were not good.”
Hargett said council simply put the question on a referendum, and voters passed it by a 63 percent majority.
Hull also said the county keeps too much money in its reserve fund, $18 million for a $40 million operating budget.
Hargett said the reserve fund is actually about $15 million, and it’s needed for an emergency.
“If we had one hurricane, another Hugo, that $15 million would get wiped out in about a month,” he said.