By Damion Smalls
Charleston attorneys Marvin Pendarvis and Theron Sandy II pled their cases in advance of the November 7 special election during a candidates forum held October 18 at North Charleston City Hall. They are competing to replace Seth Whipper, who served as the South Carolina House District 113 representative since first elected in 1995. He left the position in August to become a magistrate judge in Charleston County.
The district includes portions of Charleston and Dorchester counties, with African-Americans consisting of over half of its population. Pendarvis and Sandy are looking to complete Whipper’s unexpired term, which ends in November 2018.
The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area and The Charleston Chronicle. Attendees were encouraged to submit questions for the candidates, in which Sandy and Pendarvis took turns responding to while inserting their distinct campaign ideals.
Democratic nominee Marvin Pendarvis is a proud native of the district that he is currently attempting to represent in the South Carolina statehouse. The Garrett Tech and University of South Carolina alumnus is a Lowcountry Alliance of Model Communities (LAMC) board member, a 2017 Jim Clyburn Fellow and practices law at the Curry Law Firm. Raised in a single parent home, Pendarvis has made it his mission to aid the youth by inspiring them with passion and being heavily involved in local education.
A self-described “unique candidate”, Republican Theron Sandy II is a lawyer at Theron Law Firm, owner of multiple small businesses and an HBCU graduate (North Carolina Central University). The first member of his family to become a high school graduate, Sandy’s bootstraps mentality urges self reliance in the face of external factors. The Park Circle resident has plans to donate his entire salary to charities if elected.
Asked by the League of Women Voters why he would be the best choice for District 113 voters, Pendarvis promoted his measured temperament, deep involvement in the community and his status as a successful native that returned to serve his hometown. Faced with the same query, Sandy pointed to his potentially substantial voice as a Republican in the GOP-controlled statehouse and reiterated his love for the district.
The Chronicle pressed the candidates on how they plan to support Black and minority-owned businesses as state representative. Sandy commented on the downfall of Act 388, the controversial property tax law that has disproportionately overburdened small businesses, renters and low-income residents since its 2007 implementation. He also included affordable housing and gentrification into his response, acknowledging the pronounced effect they have had on the economy. Pendarvis provided more concrete objectives to the question, such as business patronization, advocating for needed minority business funding, developing incubator systems and stressing the importance of access to profitable opportunities.
The two candidates seemed to agree on several subjects. Supporting responsible gun ownership and laws, the need for uncompromising transparency within politics and improving access to public officials were pledges that the District 113 hopefuls paralleled. Furthermore, they prioritized the gift of the public’s electoral power as low voter turnout manifested in each of their September 5 special primary victories. However, they differed vastly when it came to healthcare as Pendarvis is in favor of expanding Medicare while Sandy is not and would rather adopt alternative options for citizens.
As a fiscal conservative, Sandy stated that “throwing money at education is not the answer”. He believes that “using available resources” and bolstering “career training” for students would help improve education. Pendarvis once again went more in-depth with his ideas on the same subject. Suggesting a temporary halt on the proliferation of charter schools due to their adverse impact on schools, championing “21st century education” with an emphasis on technology, addressing teacher pay in a meaningful aspect, making sure educational funding “is going to the right places” and greater tech school access for students were several ways he believes that education could transcend its current condition locally. Concerning a path to citizenship for skilled immigrants, Sandy demonstrated reticence to elaborate on the topic. He instead interjected national security considerations and a general appeal for the interests of the district in the place of a definitive response. Pendarvis steadfastly expressed his intentions to accommodate newcomers to the area and approved of talented workers from immigrant populations.
A calendar for upcoming local candidates forums and additional voting information can be found online at lwvcharleston.org and on the League of Women Voters Education Fund’s election-related web epicenter, vote411.org.