Weston Newton -- questionnaire

info@islandpacket.comJune 7, 2012 

S.C. House of Representatives District 120

Name: Weston Newton

Age: 45

Political party: Republican

Number of years living in the district: 16 years in Beaufort County, six years in Bluffton

Family: Married to Rose Newton with three children, ages 11, nine and six

Education: Bachelors degree, Washington and Lee University; J.D., University of South Carolina School of Law

Current occupation/employer: Partner in the law firm Jones, Simpson, & Newton

Employment, military and volunteer history: Jones, Simpson, & Newton, 1996 to present; judicial law clerk for C.W. Houck, Chief U.S. District Court Judge for the District of South Carolina, 1994 to 1996; law clerk for John H. Waller, Jr., associate justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court/judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit, 1993 to 1994; Sunset Rotary Club; volunteer, May River Montessori School; usher, Church of the Cross.

Public elected office: Beaufort County Council: 1999, 2002, 2006, 2010; elected County Council Chairman, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011. S.C. Association of Counties: second vice president, 2011; third vice president, 2010; board member, 2009

Any unsuccessful political campaigns: S.C. state Senate Seat 46, Beaufort County 2007 special election

Other political and government experience: Summer intern for U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond

Endorsements: Andy Patrick, S.C. House of Representatives District 123; Bill Herbkersman, S.C. House of Representatives District 118; Marshall Wright, retired foreign officer and former U.S. assistant secretary of state; S.C. Chamber of Commerce; Conservation Voters of S.C.

S.C. Ethics Commission statement of economic interest: Beaufort County Council stipend, $17,229

Campaign money raised: $43,976 as of May 30

Largest donors: Charlie Reed, $1,000; Robert Norton, $1,000; Gloria and Gene Taggart, $1,000 each.

Why should people vote for you? What separates you from your opponent?

My 13 years on Beaufort County Council, 10 years as chairman, makes me, by far, the most experienced public servant in the race. I am separated by my opponent by the extensive list of real accomplishments I have accumulated over the years. These include repatriating tens of millions of our tax dollars back to the area for much-needed road construction. Also for building consensus of council for preservation and protection of thousands of acres of rural and critical lands, as well as driving the process of creating an effective stormwater volume ordinance to protect our precious local waters. Finally, for leading the effort to promote the accountability and transparency of county government, so that every discussion and deliberation is broadcast on the county channel and streamed live on the Internet, as well as archived for easy retrieval.

What are the three most important issues you would address if elected? How?

1. I will immediately join with the delegation for a full-court press to change the Education Finance Act distribution formula so that our schools will receive a fair share of state tax dollars. The yearly proviso to make us partially whole is inadequate and symptomatic of the General Assembly's habit of creating flawed law, then piece-mealing a poor fix for the unintended consequences.

2. I will join the delegation in pressing for real restructuring of our state government. Without a modern, enabled executive branch, our efficiency will never reach the level where we can get a dollar's worth of service for each dollar spent. A proper efficiency will also allow us to shrink the footprint of government without drastically cutting core services.

3. Concurrent with the restructuring effort, I will personally strive for a comprehensive reform of our tax structure. It was sadly revealing that hearings intended to begin the process of removing gratuitous sales tax exceptions were mainly a platform for the lobbying community to shoot down the small, halting steps toward reform.

Knowing full well that a freshman lawmaker cannot go in and change the legislative culture overnight, I will nonetheless join with those who are serious in achieving these goals.

What other issues do you see as important?

  • I know that education is the cornerstone of our future prosperity. I want to try innovative methods to increase our proficiency. We must do what it takes for our parents' and children's success, be it through charter schools, magnet schools, various home school strategies, single-gender classes, etc. We cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results.

  • Other key issues include the protection of our natural resources in the Lowcountry, which is the foundation of our economy and quality of life. The economic consequences of failure to protect our natural resources is severe. "Clean and Green" supports us every day and should serve as a guiding principle.

  • What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?

    I want to do many of the things we had good success with at the county. Televise and/or stream session, including committee and sub-committee hearings, recording all votes, make state agency websites into models of good design and efficiency, send daily updates to papers around the state with an accounting of how each member voted on each matter. Also, I will personally reach out to my constituents through regular newspaper columns, periodic blog entries, and regular office hours to meet with folks.

    Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you?

    No.

    Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes?

    No.

    Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?

    I am a native South Carolinian. I was born in the Upstate, but childhood summers were spent in the Lowcountry with a Beaufort County cousin exploring the sandbars and tidal creeks of what one day would be my family home-place, with my dear wife, Rose, and my three lovely children.

    My residence is in Bluffton, as is my office, and church home, the Church of the Cross.

    When you don't find me at work or at County Council, you will find me at the county football fields, baseball fields, and swimming pools, at sporting events, cheering on my children's sports teams. You may find us at the sandbar on the weekend, or trying to find that perfect bite on a fishing line in our beautiful local waterways.

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