S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell has cruised to re-election with no opposition for most of his 10 Statehouse elections, but he finds challengers from the right and the left on Nov. 6.
John Steinberger, a Fair Tax advocate who originally filed as a Republican for the Senate District 41 seat, is running for the District 114 House seat as an independent, or petition, candidate.
Larry Carter Center, who originally filed for the seat as a Democrat but was among more than 200 candidates knocked off the ballot this year, re-entered the race as a Green Party candidate.
Harrell has made headlines recently for questions surrounding how he has reimbursed himself from his campaign account. He has said he has abided by all state ethics laws.
“The calls that I have gotten from constituents have been unbelievably good — things like ‘you’re being attacked unjustly,’ and what they see in the paper is not fair, hang in there, and ‘can I have a yard sign please?’ ” he said.
His opponents have talked about it, but only as one issue among many.
“Making his campaign pay for his airplane is pretty low. If it’s not illegal, it should be,” Center said. “My No. 1 issue with Bobby is him being there too long. I’m for term limits.”
Steinberger said he is frustrated that other media have not picked up on the story, originally reported in The Post and Courier, and said it underscores why state ethics laws should be changed to prevent House members from reviewing one another’s ethics.
“It’s a tough task to ask the chair of the House Ethics Committee to investigate his boss who makes all committee assignments,” Steinberger said. “That’s not an effective way to deal with corruption.”
If re-elected, Harrell said he would work to cut the income tax on small businesses and take other steps to lure jobs to the state.
“We need to be focused as a state in growing our economy and helping folks to get a better standard of living,” he said, adding he is proudest of his recent work to help lure Boeing to locate its plant in North Charleston and his role in getting $300 million in state money to deepen Charleston Harbor.
Steinberger said he personally has a lot of respect for Harrell, but he is running because he feels the state needs bold policy initiatives, such as eliminating the state income tax and encouraging more charter schools.
Steinberger is known to many in Lowcountry political circles for his advocacy work on behalf of the Fair Tax — a national and state plan to eliminate income taxes and replace them with consumption taxes instead. “Most people are aware that Texas and Florida lead the country in job creation, and one big advantage they have is zero income tax status,” he said.
Center said he favors hiring more teachers, expanding unions’ power in South Carolina and eliminating sales tax exemptions so the rate can be lowered to 4 percent.
The district runs along the western bank of the Ashley River about a mile inland, from the Wespanee neighborhood north to Summerville, plus a small part of North Charleston.