By Barney Blakeney
The field of candidates running to fill the S.C. House Dist. 113 seat vacated by 23-year veteran Rep. J. Seth Whipper may not be as crowded as initially expected. But as expected, North Charleston lawyer Marvin Pendarvis threw his name in the hat. Surprisingly, North Charleston’s representative to Charleston County School Board, Rev. Chris Collins, also is a candidate. Rounding out the field are relative political unknowns Angela Hanyak, a Democrat, and Republicans Theron Sandy, II and Rouzy Vafaie. The Democrats are favored to win the majority Black district Whipper held virtually unchallenged for 23 years. Collins and Pendarvis are Black. Hanyak, Sandy and Vafaie are white.
Pendarvis is rumored the chosen successor to Whipper. Pendarvis sought a seat on North Charleston City Council in the 2015 municipal election. Pendarvis is a product of North Charleston public schools graduating from Garrett Academy in 2007, the University of South Carolina and later University of South Carolina School of Law. Pendarvis currently is practicing law at The Curry Law Firm in North Charleston where he specializes in Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense.
Pendarvis said he views succeeding Whipper as a passing of the torch. “I’m ready,” he said. But he’s not cocky. He expected there would be competition for the seat. And the competition is formidable – Collins has served three terms on Charleston County School Board, Hanyak is in marketing, Sandy also is an attorney and Vafaie is a businessman.
“People are bringing a lot of skills to the table. There’s a good mix of people offering themselves. This is a good district and it’s good that people want to serve and continue the legacy Whipper established as well as to chart a course themselves,” Pendarvis said Sunday, a day after candidate filing closed.
Despite his youth, Pendarvis is unintimidated by his more seasoned competition. His run at a city council seat two years ago gave him campaign experience and he’s used the time since then to learn his way around the political arena. He’s a member of several civic boards and organizations including North Charleston Zoning Board of Appeals, Black Expo Charleston Advisory Board and Low Country Alliance of Model Communities.
He’s unafraid of a split vote in the Sept. 5 primary election that pits himself against Collins and Hanyak. The November 7 general election should be a success for whom ever wins the Democratic primary. Whipper’s unexpired two-year term ends next year, so the winner will have to run again next November. Pendarvis says the special election is critical. It could determine the representation shaping the district for another decade or more. For that reason, voter participation is extremely important, he said.
Collins, who’s emerging as a frequent candidate for higher office in North Charleston – he ran for mayor in 2011 and again in 2015 – sneaked in the race without prior fanfare. He explained that his entrance in the race is a way to enhance his ability to work for children. He sees the office of higher authority as an opportunity to improve education and create jobs. His advantage over the other candidates is his experience, he said. He said his track record on Charleston County School Board offers voters insight into his potential that’s absent in the other candidates.