Race to Watch: Deedee Vaughters looks to unseat Nikki Setzler - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Race to Watch: Newcomer Vaughters looks to unseat Setzler

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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

Driving into Columbia from West Columbia, you might see a rather large billboard just before the Gervais Street bridge that asks a question to state Sen. Nikki Setzler.

"Mr. Setzler, why won't you debate me?" asks the sign.

The billboard comes from Deedee Vaughters, a first-time candidate trying to end a senate career that began when she was still in elementary school.

"For the past five years, I've been watching Columbia closely. And frankly I've been very disappointed in what I've seen. And that's why I'm here today," said Vaughters.

Setzler, a Democrat, has held the seat in a largely Republican district for 36 years campaigning as a "caring conservative".

"A caring conservative is somebody who is conservative but also supports moving this state forward and getting things done," said Setzler.

Vaughters argues she's the real conservative as a small business owner who, until the campaign, helped lead the small government, libertarian-leaning South Carolina Policy Council.

Vaughters says she's been going door-to-door in Aiken, Saluda and Lexington counties. That's about 8,000 homes so far, according to her campaign.

In many of her stops, she's been calling attention to an issue that is now the subject of a YouTube video produced by the South Carolina Club for Growth. It attacks Setzler for accepting almost $12,000 in per diem payments during each legislative session even though he lives only a few minutes from the State House.

"If you live 2.3 miles from the State House and you take a nightly hotel per diem of $131, I think that's wrong," said Vaughters. "I think, frankly, it's robbing the people."

"The facts are that every member of the South Carolina General Assembly receives that payment as part of the compensation package for legislative days. And we pay taxes on it," said Setzler.

Setzler, meanwhile, promotes his track record on tax cuts, education, and job creation. He played a major role in the bipartisan push to attract Amazon to Lexington County.

A political newcomer framing herself as the true conservative, trying to upset a veteran lawmaker with far more experience. It has been done before. This race will be one to watch.

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