The 2020 state Legislature elections are still more than a year away, but a Democratic challenger for the District 75 seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives has emerged.
Democratic Columbia attorney Rhodes Bailey announced he will seek the District 75 seat. That post currently is held by Republican state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, who is in his fourth term. District 75 is in Richland County and includes areas near Kilbourne Road, Fort Jackson Boulevard and the tony Heathwood and Kings Grant neighborhoods, among other enclaves.
Bailey, a Florence native and University of South Carolina School of Law graduate, is an attorney at the Richland County Public Defender’s Office and a resident of the Hampton Leas neighborhood in Columbia. He also plays guitar in the country/rock band Whiskey Tango Revue.
When reached by Free Times, Bailey said he feels like the General Assembly has failed to make significant progress on issues that matter to South Carolinians, such as roads, public schools, dams, healthcare and gun safety, among others.
“I follow the news and I follow what’s going on in government and in politics, and it is so frustrating to sit back and feel powerless while our state government kept screwing things up,” Bailey says. “And when the state government hasn’t been screwing things up, they’ve just been ignoring problems altogether. It’s just been a complete waste of the last decade.”
He says he also thinks many legislators have become disconnected from their constituents.
“I feel like not enough officials are out there talking to people, asking them what’s going on with them, asking them what their priorities are,” Bailey says. “I think the incumbents get too comfortable up there. They enjoy seniority status on a committee, they enjoy the pomp and circumstance. They enjoy the trappings of government, but they are not interested in getting out and continuing to talk to people.”
Among local concerns, Bailey says he hears concern from District 75 residents about dysfunction and staffing issues in Richland School District One. He says he’d work to do what he can from the state level.
“You can push for accountability, you can push for organizational requirements,” Bailey says. “But, for one thing, I would show up and I’d be paying attention. I’ve got kids in public school. My daughter Katrina is at Meadowfield [Elementary] now.”
The Republican Finlay, a former Columbia City Councilman and son of late former Columbia Mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr., was first elected to the District 75 seat in 2012. In his last two elections he has easily defeated his Democratic opponents. He dispatched attorney Tyler Gregg by 19 percentage points in 2016 and turned back activist John Crangle by 15 points in 2018.
Bailey says he is ready to take on the incumbent, and he thinks 2020 will provide the right environment for doing so.
“First, 2020 will be the most important election in our lifetime,” Bailey says. “That may sound cliché, but it’s true. I feel like the last decade has been completely wasted in our state government. State agencies are still in shambles. … I believe that the values of District 75 are changing and growing and evolving, and I don’t think Representative Finlay represents the values of our district anymore.
“I plan to win by bringing my cause to the people and talking to them individually.”
The Democratic primary for state Legislature seats is on June 9, 2020.