Crowded race ahead of primary to replace late Rep. Joe Neal

Crowded race ahead of primary to replace late Rep. Joe Neal

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - After nearly two months of campaigning, the candidates hoping to fill the South Carolina House seat held by the late Representative Joe Neal are in the home stretch.

The Primary election to fill that seat is coming up May 2. Voters will be making a decision on who will take the Democratic slot in the election. That race is an eight-way battle.

Neal passed away earlier this year on Valentine's Day. And as that election gets closer, the candidates are rallying trying to reel in some last-minute votes.

In one of his last public appearances before an untimely death, Representative Joe Neal took stock of the state's new governor, Henry McMaster.

"We are not sure what his position on specific issues are," Neal said. "He is too new."

The veteran lawmaker weighed in as South Carolina began to adjust to a sudden change in leadership. Now the people of Neal's House District 70 must also adapt to change. After 24 years, a new voice is coming for parts of Richland and Sumter Counties.

There are nine candidates running. Like Neal, eight are Democrats.

WIS asked all of the candidates to answer some basic questions and six responded.

Would you carry on Neal's work on progressive issues like civil rights, environmental justice, and Medicaid expansion or take a different approach? Below is each candidate's answer:

"I think progressive issues are extremely important to people in rural communities because the progressive agenda tends to speak to those issues that impact us the most. Things like clean environments, safe environments, equitable school funding, equitable distribution of all kinds of government assistance to our area," Wendy Brawley said.

"I would definitely champion what he's done but I would use those as building blocks and I would incorporate that with my vision of how I think we should move forward," Norman Jackson Jr. said.

"Reverend Neal was right about we need to upgrade our facilities so everybody can live comfortably and we can get industry in," Heath Hill said.

"From what I understand, the stance that Mr. Neal was taking on on some environmental issues, I would probably try to pick it up and further," Jermaine Walker said. "We have an issue at my personal home now where I have some bacteria in my well water and I can't drink the water. We're having to buy water. So those are some of the first things, infrastructure."

"I would definitely stick to his line of philosophy. I think it's worked so far and a lot of his ideas I actually agree with. On the Medicaid expansion, I'm 100 percent behind that. You need to have clean water. I mean just look at what happened up in Michigan. It just took them so long and finally figured out it was the state that was doing it. There's no need for that," Patrick Morris said.

Candidate Levola Taylor commented by phone that she too would aim to further the success of Reverend Neal. She said her slogan Forward Together reflects an attempt to further the legacy of the late lawmaker.

WIS did not hear back from candidates Harry Reese Senior and George Wilson.

Candidate Wendy Brawley might have a bit of an edge in the Democratic contest by getting an endorsement from members of the Neal family.

With eight candidates, there could be a need for a runoff. If so, that happens May 16.

The special election for House 70 is scheduled for June 20.

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