When the Laurens County Republican Party held a forum for the candidates seeking the S.C House District 14 seat on Monday night, the differences in position were few and the differences in styles and personalities many.
They all opposed high taxes and abortion, favored jobs in general and education in one form or another, expressed similar views of the national Constitution and vaguely supported the state’s. They all proclaimed themselves fervent Christians of family values and rugged individualism.
Apart from the unanimity, Michael Seymour was the most pragmatic, Stewart Jones the most earnest and ideological, Grant Blair the most affable and Scott Horne the most serious.
After watching the gathering at the Family YMCA of Greater Laurens, the man they are vying to replace, Rep. Mike Pitts, said, “I don’t think this was really a Republican gathering. This was a Libertarian gathering.”
The mild jousting over how much they supported what they saw as core values occurred during the 10-minute prepared remarks, though Horne championed the schools of his native Ware Shoals, and Blair and Seymour, who live on opposite sides of Lake Greenwood, spoke out for responsible growth on its banks and cleanliness of its waters.
The questions posed in the latter half by GOP chair Keith Tripp were somewhat selective. For instance, Horne said he was opposed to recreational marijuana and in favor of its medicinal legality and the agricultural value of growing industrial hemp. The other three were not asked about it.
A major point of emphasis for Tripp was the Personhood Bill, which would define life as beginning at conception. Seymour said merely that he opposes abortion, suggesting that ought to be enough.
Seymour spent more of his time on topics that might actually happen than the other three. He cited his activism lobbying the General Assembly in behalf of the county’s Soil & Water Conservation District, on whose board he has served for 23 years, and in a broad range of civic activities.
“I believe in protecting our liberties,” he said. “I would not support any bill that is in conflict with the Constitution.”
Jones referred to himself as “an eighth-generation South Carolinian committed to the cause of liberty,” framing his anti-abortion stance by asking, “How can we protect our freedoms if we can’t defend life?
“The fundamental beliefs of our country have been under attack,” he proclaimed, noting that his service on Laurens County Council has advanced the cause of the Second Amendment and transparency in government.
Horne portrayed himself as a conduit to the voters, saying he would take their wisdom with him to Columbia.
“Ten minds are better than one,” Horne said. “We can all get together and do better than I can.”
Blair said he would stand up for the rights of Lake Greenwood residents, citing his participation in a 20-year plan for the lake area to grow responsibly.
“The infrastructure hasn’t been kept up,” he said, “and that’s especially true on the Laurens side of the lake.”
Blair also advocated the Greenwood Promise, which assures a technical education to that county’s residents. He espoused traditional values and, referring to himself as a senior citizen, said, “We need to respect our elders. We can contribute a lot to our communities.”
The party primaries are Feb. 19, with a runoff, if necessary, on March 5. The special election is April 23.