Both candidates in the state House District 112 race say they wouldn't be running if Ben Hagood were seeking re-election, and both vow to continue his work to control growth, rein in spending and promote government restructuring.
What mostly separates the two Republicans vying to fill Hagood's shoes are their backgrounds.
Joe Bustos is a businessman with a master's degree in administration and has served on Mount Pleasant Town Council for years. "I think it is time for a legislator with a good amount of municipal experience who understands the municipal process to go to the state and help explain to state legislators how their decisions impact the municipalities," he said. "There seems to be somewhat of a rural flavor to the Legislature."
Mike Sottile is an insurance agent and Air Force veteran who was first elected to the Isle of Palms City Council in 1990 and has served as the city's mayor since 2001. He also has served three years on the board of the S.C. Municipal Association. "I think I can make a difference in Columbia," he said. "I've got experience not only locally but statewide in dealing with various issues."
Currently, no state lawmaker lives within Mount Pleasant's town limits, even though it has become the state's fourth-largest municipality.
Bustos, 57, said he isn't urging voters to support him simply because of where he lives. "I think the issue that comes out as I go around is that Mayor Sottile is used to dealing with 5,000 people and a budget of about $6 million or so and a relatively small number of town employees, no development agreements or things like that," Bustos said. Mount Pleasant has about 60,000 residents and a budget closer to $60 million to $70 million, including special funds. "The Isle of Palms is not a bad municipality, don't get me wrong. It's just that it's small," he said.
Sottile, who will turn 60 days before the June 10 primary, said he wants to continue Hagood's efforts in improving local government cooperation. "District 112 is primarily a tourist-based district. There are a lot of tourists who come here. We have the beaches. I think there needs to be a better understanding between local governments and state agencies to work together to preserve our beaches and our marshlands and state estuaries. That's why we live here."
Sottile has the fundraising lead to date, $33,000 to $18,000, according to the candidates' figures.
Bustos won the endorsements of former Gov. James Edwards and of the S.C. Club for Growth. "As a small business owner, Bustos' understanding of fiscal responsibility is one reason that Mount Pleasant has refused to raise taxes during his seven years on town council," the club said.
No Democrat filed for the seat, so whoever wins the primary is virtually assured of winning in November. If Sottile wins he eventually would resign as Isle of Palms mayor, setting up a special election there.
BIRTHDATE: Sept. 12, 1950.
FAMILY: Wife, Kathy; daughter, Kelly Bustos Ellsworth; son, Brian Bustos; one grandson.
EDUCATION: Master's in Administration from Central Michigan University.
OCCUPATION: Co-owner of Southeastern Cruise and Tour.
PREVIOUS ELECTED OFFICE: Mount Pleasant Town Council.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? "I would like to continue working for the East Cooper area residents at the state level to bring a balance of smaller government, economic development and conservation. I feel my experience on the town council of the state's fourth-largest municipality uniquely qualifies me to accomplish these goals."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FACING THE STATE? "The toughest issue facing the state now is unfettered spending and controlling taxes and fees."
BIRTHDATE: June 7, 1948.
FAMILY: Wife, Loraine; Daughter, Amy.
EDUCATION: Bishop England High School, attended Baptist College at Charleston.
OCCUPATION: Independent Insurance Agent for 35 years. Employed by C.T. Lowndes & Co.
PREVIOUS ELECTED OFFICE: Elected to Isle of Palms City Council in 1990; elected mayor in 2001.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? "I am running for the State House because I have the experience and knowledge of 18 years of service on the local level. I want to be a strong voice for coastal communities on growth management, conservation, tourism and lower taxes."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FACING THE STATE? "I believe the toughest issue facing South Carolina is state spending. I want to constitutionally cap state spending and cut taxes on working families. When families have more money to spend, our economy grows and jobs are created."