State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland, hopes to win a third term this year, but first he must defeat fellow Democrats Richmond Truesdale Jr. of Adams Run and Bobby C. Mayes of Walterboro.
Senate District 45 is one of the state's largest and most rural, stretching from southern Charleston County down through Colleton, Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday, there will be a runoff June 24.
Pinckney, a pastor who supervises 22 churches in the AME's Wateree District, said he wants another term to continue to push for port development in Jasper and Charleston counties.
He said he is running on his record, which includes reducing property taxes, protecting the environment and getting rid of the Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test earlier this year. "It was an ill-conceived, poor test and didn't give our teachers anything to work with," he said. The state will develop a new test to measure student achievement next year.
Pinckney said he is disappointed the state hasn't raised its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to generate money for child health care. "I grew up without health insurance. I know how important it is. I know what it's like when you get sick (and) you have to go to the emergency room because you don't have a doctor," he said.
If re-elected, Pinckney said he would push for more tax reform, 4-year-old kindergarten across the state, improving roads and schools, and attracting more teachers to rural school districts.
Truesdale, a truck driver who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat eight years ago, said he decided to run because he began thinking about several state laws that should be passed and then thought, "Why take it to somebody? Be that person yourself."
Truesdale said he would like to reform property laws to make it more difficult for one heir to force a sale of property, reform child support to give fathers who are trying to pay more breathing room to do so, and abolish the high school exit exam.
"I deal a lot with young people, and I'm always asking them why don't you finish school. They say why should I finish school when I get to 12th grade and I can't pass the test? A lot of people, they're just not good test takers," he said.
Truesdale said he also supports a second-chance law that would make it easier for those convicted of a crime to clear their record and get a job. And he would push for a "Jeroid Ferguson law" to require police officers to shoot at a vehicle's tires instead of at the driver. Ferguson was shot and killed by Charleston police last year when he tried to run them over after an undercover drug deal at Citadel Mall.
He said he also backs port expansion and upgrading Medicare, and he said his experience as a truck driver who makes frequent stops at port terminals would help him deal with port-expansion issues.
Birthdate: July 30, 1973.
Family: Married, one child.
Education: Graduated from Allen University, master's degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina, and a master's from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
Occupation: Supervising minister.
Previous POLITICAL office: S.C. House 1997-2000; S.C. Senate, 2001-present
Why are you running for office?: "I believe there's still a lot more work to be done for the people in the Lowcountry and South Carolina. We still need to do more work for our children and our communities."
WHAT'S THE toughest issue facing the state?: "Continuing to improve education, access to health care and our crumbling infrastructure."
Richmond Truesdale Jr.
Birthdate: May 23, 1957.
Family: Married, four children.
Education: Attended Charleston Southern University.
Occupation: Truck driver.
Previous elected office: None.
Why are you running for office?: "I feel as though I can make a great big difference in the life of people and politics. I decided to run because I'm deeply involved in the community in things now, and there are some laws I would like to have passed."
What's the toughest issue facing the state?: "It's Medicare. People are dying because they can't get cared for."