BUFFALO - A Spartanburg attorney says Sen. Jim Ritchie is more interested in running for governor than he is serving the people of his district.
Max Hyde, 34, is seeking the Republican nomination for the District 13 seat. Hyde, who is making his first bid for public office, said that Ritchie, also a Republican, has focused more on his career than he is the needs of his constituents.
“I think he's been out of touch with the constituents; I think he's been more concerned with his political career and running for governor than the concerns of his constituents,” Hyde said. “I do not think he has been as effective a senator for this region as he could be.”
Hyde said his principal reason for seeking the District 13 seat is because of his desire to serve others.
“My fundamental motivation is service; everything I've ever learned in my faith, my education, my work, my life has lead me to believe that service is the highest calling,” he said. “I think that a sermon that my minister delivered on cross-bearing has been very inspirational in which he described cross-bearing as the voluntary undertaking of other people's burdens. I want to be the helping senator, I want to give of myself to the state and do everything I can to advocate for this region and its people.”
Hyde was at Wade's restaurant in Buffalo Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by his wife, Eliza, and their two children, Lily Ruth, 2, and 4-month-old son, Thomas.
Mrs. Hyde is a former public school teacher and Hyde said education would be one of his priorities if elected.
“I think that education is a major priority; I'm very much a proponent of public schools and I think a democracy can only be as strong as its public education system,” Hyde said. “I think he (Ritchie) unduly interfered in the school issues of Union County. I think it's a local issue and I think the people of the region should determine the future of the school system.”
Ritchie cast the deciding vote to repeal the law requiring a unanimous vote of the Union County School Board to close a high school. His vote resulted in the closing of Jonesville and Lockhart high schools and their consolidation with Union High as Union County High School.
In explaining his vote, Ritchie said he'd been assured that the board would take a number of steps to improve education and bring the county together including giving the school a new mascot and colors. The Union majority on the board, however, voted to retain Union High's colors and mascot. Ritchie said he would introduce legislation that would change the board's makeup by redrawing their district lines. The legislation has not been passed, however.
Jonesville and Lockhart residents responded to the board's decision by establishing a public charter school. The school will be governed by the parents of its students and the teachers. Hyde spoke sympathetically of the effort on Wednesday.
“I think the charter school movement has been an expression of the people's will,” he said. “I know that the people of Jonesville have been very disheartened by the loss of their high school. I know that the charter school movement has been one manifestation of trying to deal with the loss of their high school.”
Hyde said that if elected, he will work to bring economic development to Union County in general and Buffalo in particular.
“I think we need to focus on lower taxes, reducing spending and bringing jobs, particularly for Union County,” he said. “As regards the Buffalo area, we need more and better jobs. Jobs like LSP; solid jobs that will build this region and I do think there's a need for better infrastructure that will help bring these jobs.”
Hyde said he believes economic development can be achieved without sacrificing the quality of life that makes Union County attractive.
“I think we can recruit more and better jobs within a framework of preserving the quality of life,” he said. “I think one of the attractions of people for this region is the quality of life. I'm a pro-growth, pro-economic development advocate.”
He described the proposed Patriot's Lake as “a very good idea. I think it would help the county.”
Opposed by environmental groups the lake is touted by proponents as a source of water, economic development and hydroelectric power. Though an Army Corps of Engineers study found the lake technically feasible but not economically justified, the county and the lake committee are proceeding with efforts to develop it.
Hyde is a 1991 graduate of Spartanburg High School, a 1995 graduate of Davidson College, and a 2000 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. He practices law with the firm of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins.
In Union County, District 13 includes Cross Keys, Putman, West Springs, Jonesville and part of Buffalo.