In September, third-term Richland County Councilman Jim Manning announced he wouldn't be seeking re-election for his District 8 seat in 2020. Part of the reason Manning said he made his decision so early was to give people who might want to run for the seat time to "contemplate what their interest may be.”
It seems Columbia businessman Hamilton Grant has moved past contemplation and into action.
The Democratic Grant tells Free Times he intends to run for the District 8 seat. Filing for the election will open in March 2020, with a primary in June and a general election to follow in November.
Grant is the president of Grant Business Advisors, a Columbia finance and strategy firm, and is a member of the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees. He holds business degrees from South Carolina State and Alabama A&M.
County Council's racially diverse District 8 is in the northeast part of the county, and includes the Decker Boulevard International Corridor commercial district.
Grant, 30, is seeking elected office for the first time. The Richland Northeast High School alum says he thinks the time is right to seek the seat that is located in an area close to his heart.
"For me it's personal," Grant says. "This is my home district. I was educated here, I have lived here. These are my fraternity brothers, these are my friends, these are the people we go to church with. Growing up here, I understand the terrain and the issues and the struggles we face, not only as a district, but as a county. ... I thought this was the perfect opportunity to take our service to another level. I love serving people."
Grant says there are a number of issues that he would focus on if elected, but near the top of the list would be working to get the county's often controversial Transportation Penny program on track. The penny tax, approved narrowly by voters in a contentious 2012 election referendum, is set to collect $1 billion over 20 years to fund road construction projects and the county's bus system. But the program has been dogged by legal issues and slowdowns, and management of the program recently shifted back to the county after being overseen by a consortium of private companies for the last five years.
"Clearly we need stronger infrastructure, which ties into the penny sales tax and transparency there," Grant says. "We've got several projects that are on-hold and over budget. So, we need to figure out where the taxpayer dollars went and how the county used it. We need to make sure, as we grow as a county, that the infrastructure can sustain the growth."
Census figures show Richland County had a population of 414,000 in 2018, up from 384,000 in 2010.
Grant also says he would make a public safety a priority.
"In the district, the makeup of it is interesting when it comes to crime," Grant says. "On Decker Boulevard you've got high profile crimes, whether it's a shooting at a church or a shooting at a club. And on my side, on Hardscrabble, you have lots of car break-ins. We need to make sure our neighborhoods are safe, and that people feel safe when they go out or when they go to church or wherever it is."