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5 seek SC House seat vacated by retiring Rep. Chip Huggins

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Five candidates are seeking the state House seat covering Chapin and Irmo as long-time incumbent Chip Huggins retires. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

COLUMBIA — A crowded field is running to fill the seat of retiring state Rep. Chip Huggins.

The Lexington County Republican served for 23 years in the district that covers the fast growing area north of Lake Murray, and parts of Irmo.

Now, five candidates — four Republicans, who will compete in a primary run off June 14, and one Libertarian — are seeking the office.

The Republicans include: Jay Kilmartin, a businessman who owns The Melting Pot restaurant; two Lexington-Richland School District Five board members Rebecca Blackburn Hines and Catherine Huddle; and Christian Stegmaier, a Columbia area attorney.

John Davis, the lone Libertarian, runs a computer security business.

Stegmaier, a Columbia area attorney, ran for office once before seeking the state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Dick Harpootlian. He said the growth around Irmo and Chapin is what drove him to run in the current race.

"We need someone focused on building roads and infrastructure that meet our significant needs," he said.

Stegmaier also wants to increase funding for South Carolina's public universities and K-12 education.

Kilmartin, a first-time candidate, calls himself a "liberty-minded" Republican with a pro-business stance.

Other candidates did not immediately return calls from The Post and Courier.

In other Lexington County races, incumbent Micah Caskey faces a primary challenger in District 89, covering most of West Columbia and Cayce, as does Cal Forrest in District 39, which falls south and west of Lake Murray with towns like Gilbert, Batesburg-Leesville and Saluda.

Caskey, an attorney, has held office since 2016, taking over the seat from the influential and long-serving former S.C. House Ethics Committee chairman Kenny Bingham. After defeating West Columbia Mayor Tem Miles in a runoff, Caskey went on to win that year's general election. 

Caskey is challenged in 2022 by Melanie Shull, a former music teacher and founder of Christian faith magazine Living Real.

Forrest also has served since 2016, defeating the then incumbent Ralph Shealy Kennedy in the primary before going on to win the General Election.

Forrest is challenged by Katie Hall of Saluda, a mother and former teacher's assistant who bills herself as a "Grassroots Republican" supportive of school choice, gun rights, law enforcement and Pro-Life.

Republican incumbent R.J. May will face off against Democrat Daniel Shrief for District 88, which falls south of Lexington and west of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in the South Congaree area.

Nathan Ballentine and Paula Rawl Calhoun are unopposed in their bids to retain their S.C. House seats.

For Lexington County Council, there is one challenger seeking a seat.

With redistricting moving the town of South Congaree into council District 9, incumbent Todd Cullum will face South Congaree Town Councilman Bobby Porter in the June primary.

Cullum, a co-owner of Reeley's Body Shop, has served on county council since winning election in 2002. Porter, who owns Premier One Construction, last ran for county council in 2020 and was defeated by Bimbo Jones for the seat of former Councilman Bobby Keisler.

Council members Larry Brigham, Beth Carrigg, and Glen Conwell are unopposed.

Reach Jessica Holdman at Follow her @jmholdman on Twitter.

Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.