Senate District 45 race pits incumbent versus newcomer in largest district in state
Charleston County voters who live in the far southern part of the county have a choice between a three-term Democratic incumbent and a Beaufort County Republican businesswoman in the race to represent what many see as South Carolina’s largest and most geographically spread out Statehouse seat.
Family: Wife Jennifer, two children
Occupation: Pastor, Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston
Education: BA in Business Administration, Allen University; Master of Public Administration, University of South Carolina; Master of Divinity, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary
Previous elected office: S.C. House of Representatives, four years; S.C. Senate, 12 years
Why are you running? Our region needs strong voices for economic development and support for public eduction in Columbia. With 16 years of seniority, I want to continue being one of those strong voices.
What is the biggest issue facing the district? We must continue creating ladders into the middle class: economic development for job growth, quality public education and access to higher education.
Contact info: 803-212-6148, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family: Husband Donald, three sons, four grandchildren
Occupation: Litigation paralegal
Education: Beaufort Technical College, paralegal program
Previous elected office: None
Why are you running? I believe there has been no real representation in terms of engagement and communication with constituents, and advocacy of issues most important to them, like job creation and funding and improvement of public education.
What is the biggest issue facing the district? The lack of economic development, both historically and in terms of the incumbent’s communicated plans and goals; and the closely intertwined issues of education and workforce development, both of which have been neglected and are in a sad state.
Contact info: 843-473-9164; 843-379-9195; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Senate District 45 race pits veteran Sen. Clementa Pinckney of Ridgeland against a challenge from political newcomer Leilani Bessinger of Beaufort.
The seat covers all or parts of six counties in lower South Carolina, from Charleston to as far away as Allendale and Hampton counties along the Georgia state line.
Of the district’s 60,000 residents, about 16,500 live in Charleston County, mostly in rural areas around the St. Paul’s precincts and Johns and Wadmalaw islands.
Pinckney is pastor of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church on Calhoun Street in Charleston. He previously served two terms in the state House of Representatives before jumping to the Senate in 2000.
He points to his assignment on the Senate Finance Committee as an example of his seniority in the upper chamber, adding that he has visited all the Charleston schools in the district.
He called road issues one of the most in-need for the Charleston part of the district, saying while extending Interstate 526 has gotten the headlines, parts of Main Road on Johns Island need widening.
“The residents travel Main Road,” he said. Water-quality improvements and land conservation have been among his concerns for southern Charleston County.
Bessinger, a litigation paralegal, is related to the famous South Carolina barbecue family through marriage. She is making her first bid for political office.
As a military brat, Bessinger said she moved around a lot with her Marine Corps veteran father.
As a candidate for office, she advocates term limits of about three terms per office, and wants to change what she called the “good old boy” system in Columbia.
“We have to move forward in South Carolina,” she said.
Like Pinckney, she listed roads, schools and job recruiting as some of the biggest needs in the district.