UNION — Seniority in the state legislature and the influence that comes with it versus the inevitability of change and the advantages of membership in the legislative majority were at the heart of Thursday’s debate between the candidates for the SC House District 42 seat.
Thursday’s debate, which was held in the USC Union auditorium, was the third and final of three debates sponsored by the Union County Young Republicans and the Union County Democratic Party. The debates were designed to provide a forum for the candidates to speak on issues of importance to the people of Union County in a fair and impartial setting.
The first debate was held Sept. 28 and was for the candidates running for Mayor of the City of Union the Districts 3 and 6 seats on Union City Council as well as the Mayor of the Town of Carlisle. The Oct. 7 debate was for the candidates running for Union County Council District 3, Union County Clerk of Court, and Union County Sheriff.
The final debate of Thursday’s debates was for the SC House District 42 seat which is being sought by incumbent Democrat Mike Anthony and Republican challenger Tommy Mann.
One of the issues raised during the debate was about seniority. Anthony, who has served in the SC House of Representatives for 14 years, is seeking his eighth term in office while Mann is making his first bid for public office.
Anthony said that the seniority he has attained through his 14 years in office is vital to District 42 which is composed of Union County and part of Laurens County. He said that his seniority and the relationships he has developed with other legislators of both the Democratic and Republican parties has enabled him to get the issues facing Union County addressed by the legislature. He said that it was important to the future of the county that it retain the influence he has been able to attain through the seniority he has gained and the connections he has made during his years in Columbia.
Mann, however, said that the conversation about the seniority Anthony has attained is a conversation about the past, not the future. He pointed out that during the last three election cycles Anthony has indicated the possibility of retiring. Mann said this means that eventually and inevitably District 42 will be without Anthony’s seniority and that the district must be ready for that. He said he felt that now is the time for the district to make that transition.
The Democrats are a minority within the legislature, but Anthony pointed out that this has not prevented him from becoming a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the General Assembly. Anthony said he was able to gain his position on the committee and retain it because of his seniority, adding that the relationships he has built over the years with legislators on both sides of the aisle has enabled him to use that position to secure needed funding for Union County such as the $1.25 million for renovations to the Union County Carnegie Library and $200,000 for the replacement of the Broad River Bridge in Lockhart. He said the position he holds on the committee and the relationships he has made take time to achieve and do not just happen overnight.
Mann, however, pointed out that Anthony’s seniority notwithstanding, he is still a member of the minority party while he, as a Republican, is in the majority. He expressed confidence that the Republicans will retain their majority and with it the power to set the legislative calendar and agenda. Furthermore, Mann pointed out that the governor is also a Republican, giving the party — and its members — even greater clout. He said that as a member of the majority party in legislature and with that party also in control of the executive branch, he will be able to be an effective legislator.
Anthony disputed this, pointing out that even as a member of the majority party, Mann will still be a freshman and will lack the clout the district now has because of the seniority he has gained over the years. He said that whether a legislator is a member of the minority or majority party, seniority is still the key.
Mann, however, said that if he wins the Republicans will want to retain the District 42 seat and that means they will have to do things to enable them to retain it. He said this will help give him the clout he needs to have the district’s needs addressed by the legislature.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.