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Monday, May 20, 2024 - 06:41 AM


First Published in 1994


First Monday Candidates Forum Greenville SC

While nearly 200 Greenville Republican leaders and activists lunched on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli last Monday at the Poinsett Club, a plethora of GOP candidates for various political offices in the Greenville area made their elevator pitch as to why they should be elected.

The occasion was the monthly meeting of the First Monday Republican Club. Deb Sofield runs the club as a well-oiled machine when it comes to starting each monthly program on time and keeping things moving.

Each candidate present was given up to three minutes to put their best foot forward and to try to convince the audience members to vote for them rather than the other guy – or gal. Some read their remarks and others spoke off the cuff.

Perhaps the most attention-getting speech was made by Frank Farmer, who is running for the open County Council seat in District 22. He spent his time telling his hearers why they should not vote for him.

“Don't vote for me,” said Farmer, “if you want higher taxes. Don't vote for me if you don't want a balanced budget. Don't vote for me if you want someone that hates confrontation. . . Do not vote for me if you want someone that's willing to compromise their values that we share as Republicans.”

Butch Kirven, the incumbent councilman in District 27 and one of the majority of councilors who voted last year in favor of the unprecedented property tax increase, touted some of council's accomplishments during his 20-year tenure of which he is proud, particularly noting the new multi-multi million dollar county complex at University Ridge. Kirven has a primary opponent in conservative Republican Garey Collins.

Incumbent Chris Harrison is hoping to hold onto his District 21 seat on County Council. “My entire career has been centered around planning and zoning,” said Harrison.

Challenger Curt McGahhey, who is looking to unseat Harrison, took the pit bull approach. “The choices are stark in this election,” said McGahhey, adding that crony politics are currently overwhelming county council.

McGahhey also noted Harrison's flip-flop on his anti-tax pledge that he made back in 2020. A March 26, 2020 Facebook post by Harrison reveals the following promise, “As your County Councilman, I promise to always lead with integrity. I will always fight against raising taxes, and will always push for continued, healthy growth in District 21.”

McGahhey reminded the audience of Harrison's vote last June, along with Kirven and council co-chair Liz Seman, who also spoke but who has no primary opponent, for the largest tax increase in Greenville in 30 years. McGahhey said that he would fight to keep taxes low.

Two other county council candidates, Alex Reynolds, who is running for the District 20 seat, and Jay Rogers, who is campaigning for the District 22 seat, also spoke.

Candidates for other offices were in attendance as well. Paul Wickensimer is leaving his long-held Clerk of Court post to run for a seat in the State House. His former assistant, acting Clerk of Court Brice Garrett, is looking to win election outright. Other candidates for State House seats – Pam Anthony, Kerri Smith and Sarah Curran, as well as candidates for state Senate seats – Skip Davenport, Hope Blackley and Jason Elliott, also spoke.

Mike Ellis, a well-qualified and long-time deputy coroner, is looking to replace his long-term supervisor Parks Evans, who is retiring.

Sheriff Hobart Lewis is running for a second four-year term. He said that he has filled a majority of the vacancies in the department since he became sheriff in 2020. He also said that the department had a 100% homicide closure rate for 2021 and 2022 and a 100% record in the location of missing persons during the last three years.