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Charleston Republicans Hope To Pull Off Nov. 4 Upsets
9/17/2014 4:55:59 PM

John Stienberger
Staff Reports

The Charleston County Republican Party is confident its local candidates will be successful in winning the seats they’re after when voters go the polls for the Nov. 4 general election. County school board elections and the school district’s referendum to obtain approximately $500 million through a new four-year sales tax extension are paramount, said Chairman John Stienberger.

Charleston County Republicans are focused on winning several state House of Representatives seats including seats 15, 94, 108, 114, 116 and 119. Incumbents Sam Rivers (15) and Jenny Horne (94) are expected to win their re-elections. Republicans hope Carroll O’Neal in House Dist. 116 and Colin Ross in House Dist. 119 will upset their Democratic opponents. Republican candidates’ victories will insure the party’s agenda is addressed, Stienberger said.

But Charleston County Republicans’ most important concerns are schools. Stienberger said at the top of the list is the effort to defeat the proposed one percent sales tax extension until 2021. The district’s plan is poorly defined and lacks specificity. A more fiscally responsible plan should be developed for consideration in 2016, Stienberger said.

“Shiny new buildings never educated anyone,” Stienberger said. While the issue of growth must be addressed, more important is the issue of improving student performance. A number of successful programs in the district - specifically charter programs at Orange Grove Elementary and the Charleston Charter School for Math & Science - should be replicated.

Discipline and school autonomy also should be priorities. Instead the proposed plan prioritizes building a new football stadium in North Charleston and shuttering adequate facilities such as C.E. Williams Middle School while vacant properties go unused costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for maintenance, he said. The school district has the time to figure out a more fiscally responsible plan before the current sales tax expires Dec. 31, 2016, Stienberger said.

Electing new members to the county’s non-partisan consolidated school board can help accomplish that feat, he said. Two seats will be elected from Mount Pleasant, two from West Ashley and one from the North Area.

The party is endorsing Kelvin Curtis for the North Area seat and Eddie Fennel for one of the West Ashley seats. Curtis, who is African American, may be in the most important race of the elections, Stienberger injected. Both candidates are fiscal conservatives who support less bureaucracy, orderly schools and vocational opportunities for students, he said.

While most state and county races are uncontested, several must be decided, Stienberger noted. On the state level, at stake is the party’s Fair Tax initiatives. Contested races at the state level include House districts 15, 94, 116 and 119. County council’s Dist. 8 seat is up for grabs.

Stienberger thinks Republicans can pull off an upset in House 119 where about 55 percent of voters are Republicans. In County Council Dist. 8 the issue of support for the I-526 construction onto James and Johns islands may chew off support from the incumbent Democrat, he said.

Stienberger said reaching out to minorities and youth will be a focus for the upcoming elections. That’s a realistic goal because there are issues Republicans share with both groups, he said.

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