A preacher, a delivery driver and a trans activist: Meet these SC Senate hopefuls

July 02–COLUMBIA, S.C. — The final slate of candidates in the Senate District 20 primary include a preacher, a taxi driver and a transgender activist.

The three were the final candidates to file to run on Saturday as filing for the special election closed. Now four Republicans and three Democrats will face off in a primary on Aug. 14. The winner will replace former Senate Education Committee chairman John Courson, who resigned last month after pleading guilty to misconduct charges.

Dayna Alane Smith is a transgender activist who works in health insurance and lives in Wales Garden. She wants to bring a new kind of diversity to the Senate.

“I’m running as a new voice,” Smith said. “We don’t have enough women and minorities represented. There’s only one open LGBT individual in the Legislature and I am a transgender individual.”

A Democrat, Smith wants the Legislature to do more to address women’s issues and improve education and in the aftermath of Courson’s resignation, she wants to see an independent, nonpartisan ethics board to oversee state lawmakers.

John Holler, meanwhile, joins the GOP field. An ordained Methodist minister, Holler has been the president of Columbia’s Epworth Children’s Home for the past 12 years.

Given his background, Holler wants to focus on children’s issues. He cites recent changes to the state’s family welfare spending that seek to keep more needy children in their homes, something he worries South Carolina does not currently have the services to adequately provide.

“The main thing is I’m a bridge-builder,” Holler said. “When I do marriage and family counseling, I try to bring people together to move forward.”

Finally, Democrat Kyle Lacio is a delivery driver who often takes contract deliveries and transports personal passengers across the district, which stretches from the southern neighborhoods of Columbia to the northwest, along Interstate 26 into portions of Lexington County.

He said he often sees the problems in South Carolina’s infrastructure firsthand, from the train tracks on Assembly Street to Malfunction Junction. He also wants to push SCE&G to offer a full refund to customers for the cost of a failed Fairfield County nuclear construction project.

“I’m a fairly average working guy,” said Lacio, who says he’s been involved in progressive activism dating back to Occupy Columbia in 2011. “I do what I can to pay the bills. … Unlike some of the more successful people running, that’s a refund check I can use.”

Lacio and Smith are both running against Columbia attorney and former state Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian in the Democratic primary. Holler will face Ballentine lawyer Benjamin Dunn, Irmo attorney Christian Stegmaier and Columbia insurance agent Bill Turbeville in the GOP primary.

If no candidate in either primary wins a majority of the vote on Aug. 14, the top two will meet in a runoff on Aug. 28. The special election to fill the unexpired term will be Nov. 6.

This article provided by NewsEdge.