It appears a second Democrat will likely seek the District 75 state House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican Rep. Kirkman Finlay.
Heather Bauer, an information technology projects manager and co-owner of Workhorse Fitness near Bluff Road, tells Free Times she is seriously weighing running for the District 75 seat. Finlay currently is in his fourth term in that post. District 75 is in Richland County, and encompasses parts of central and eastern Columbia, including areas near Kilbourne Road, Fort Jackson Boulevard and the tony Heathwood and Kings Grant neighborhoods, among other locales.
While she has not yet formally announced a run, Bauer is clearly leaning heavily toward seeking the District 75 post. She says she’s been speaking with residents about their concerns for South Carolina and the district.
“Right now I’m listening to the community and I want to reflect what the community is now, and not what it represented 20 years ago,” Bauer says. “If I feel like I’m the woman for the job, then I will pursue it.”
Rhodes Bailey, a Columbia attorney, has announced he will run for the District 75 seat as a Democrat.
Bauer says she’d like the opportunity to foster a business-friendly environment in the state and district, and to help eliminate barriers for small business owners.
“I’m a small business owner, and we’ve experienced a huge amount of hurdles the state has caused,” Bauer says. “For me, I want to make it as easy as possible to do business here. Frankly, from what I’ve seen from Kirkman Finlay, who is a business owner, he hasn’t done much to foster economic development and supporting businesses. That is something that is really important to me.”
Finlay has several business ventures, including owning Pawleys Front Porch and Doc’s Barbeque in Columbia. A former Columbia City Councilman and the son of late former Mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr., he has not had much trouble with Democratic opponents in his last few elections. In 2012, he edged Democratic attorney Joe McCulloch by about two percentage points. Two years later they faced off again, and that time Finlay won by about seven points. In 2016 Finlay dominated attorney Tyler Gregg by 19 points, and in 2018 he turned back activist John Crangle by 15 points.
Bauer says it seems like state government is in the midst of a “30-year decay” in a number of ways. She thinks she could be a part of reversing that trend.
“It’s time for someone who is not afraid of doing the heavy lifting, not afraid to do hard work, which I am not afraid of,” she says. “I’m very bootstrap. I came from a family where I was raised on public assistance my entire life. I rode the school bus until my last day of high school.”
Bauer has lived in Columbia since 2007. After playing volleyball and doing her undergraduate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, she got her masters in media arts from the University of South Carolina.
She also is a graduate of Emerge South Carolina, an organization which encourages, recruits and trains women to run for office in the state. Per the organization’s website, it "provides aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system."
Bauer would be running for a seat in a Legislature where only 16 percent of the seats are held by women. According to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures, only five other states have a lower percentage of women in their state houses. She says going through the Emerge SC program provided some of the tools she would need for a House run.
“What I love about the country that we live in is that everyone should have the opportunity to be represented,” Bauer says. “This is exactly how democracy should work. I was afforded the opportunity to go through [the Emerge SC] program and be trained. It’s not only encouraging women to run, but they train us. They equip us to make a great run at being elected.
“Our community has changed. Columbia has changed; it’s still changing. I think that people in office should be representative of those who are in the community.”
The Democratic primary for the District 75 seat would be on June 9, 2020.