Beaufort News

Meet the candidates vying to replace slain state Sen. Clementa Pinckney

Republican SC Sen. District 45 candidate Al Fernandez, left, and Democratic candidate Margie Bright Matthews.
Republican SC Sen. District 45 candidate Al Fernandez, left, and Democratic candidate Margie Bright Matthews. Submitted photos

Margie Bright Matthews

Age: Bright Matthews' campaign did not provide her date of birth despite repeated requests.

Political party: Democrat

Office: S.C. Senate District 45

Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: Entire life

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Family: Husband, Patrick Matthews; four daughters; two grandsons

Education: University of South Carolina, 1985; University of South Carolina School of Law, 1989

Current occupation/employer: Owner, Bright Matthews Law Firm

Employment, military and volunteer history: Page in the S.C. State Senate, 1982-1985; law clerk to S.C. Senate Medical Affairs Committee, 1986-1987; law clerk to S.C. Office of Appellate Defense, 1988-1989; associate attorney at McLeod, Fraser & Cone, 1989-1992; Walterboro High School permanent substitute teacher, 1985-1986; volunteer for the Rice Festival Committee, Rotary Club volunteer programs, Arts Council adult theater, S.C. Bar Association middle school mock trial sponsor, coach and judge; S.C. Heirs Property Preservation

Public offices held: None

Unsuccessful bids for public office: None

Other prior political and government experience: President, Colleton County Bar Association; Board of Governors, S.C. Association of Justice; State Delegate, American Association for Justice, Advisory Panel, S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense

Key endorsements you've received: John Pinckney, Johnette Pinckney-Martinez, father and sister of the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney; Charleston County Democratic Party; Danny Henderson and John E. Parker of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker & Detrick Law Firm; Alex Murdaugh, former chair of Hampton County Democratic Party; Woody Gooding, Gooding and Gooding law firm; Bertha Middleton, Wadmalaw Community Center; Curtis Inabinett, former member of the S.C. House of Representatives; Walterboro Mayor Bill Young; Franklin Smalls, former Walterboro City Councilman; Charles "Mike" MacCloskie, MacCloskie Law Firm

Campaign contributions: $136,897

Campaign expenditures: $123,125.72

Biggest contributor: Randy Murdaugh, Ashley Twombley, William McLeod, Terry Richardson, Mullins Law Firm and 37 others gave $1,000 each

Why should people vote for you?

As a grandmother, mother, wife, local attorney and former educator, I will be a strong voice for our district and use my outside perspective to deliver real results. I will focus on improving education by increasing teacher pay and reducing classroom sizes, bringing new jobs to the district by partnering with leaders who want to invest in the community and working to reduce the crime rate.

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

Creating a district of opportunity will require a plan that invests in our future, while also taking care of the present:

1. Education: In order for us to grow our community, we need to invest in the teachers and students who are building the future of our district. As a former educator, I know that most teachers today are struggling to make ends meet. In order for us to recruit and retain the best teachers, we need to increase teacher pay and reduce class sizes to give our students and teachers the support they need.

2. Jobs: In order to recruit jobs, we need to provide job-training programs throughout the district to prepare our current workforce for the jobs of the 21st century. We also need to address our transportation needs by working to increase public transportation options for our workers and finally implement a real roads plan to get folks to their jobs.

3. Safe Communities: No community will attract good teachers or employers if it is not a safe place to live. As your senator, I will work with local law enforcement and community partners to create after-school opportunities and job training opportunities to take folks off the streets and put them into the classroom and workforce.

South Carolina Democrats plan to renew their efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state to continue the work of the late-Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who championed Medicaid's benefits to the poor. District 45 spans some of the state's poorest areas. Will you support the efforts to expand Medicaid? If so, how?

The residents of District 45 are currently paying federal tax dollars that are going to other states to support their expansion of Medicaid. It is time to bring those tax dollars back home and provide the health care our residents need that they are already paying for. Everyday, vulnerable members of our community are being ignored by our governor, who is choosing politics over people. While I appreciate the effort of some folks already in Columbia, we need a new perspective.

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

Did not answer

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.

Did not answer

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

Did not answer

Al Fernandez

Age: 60

Political party: Republican

Office: S.C. Senate District 45

Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: One year

Family: Four grown daughters

Education: Bachelor of political science and masters of public administration, Ball State University; masters of divinity, Christian Theological Seminary

Current occupation/employer: Owner of Supreme Clean in Rincon, Ga.; minister at Laurel Hill and Wingard Memorial Lutheran Churches in Clyo, Ga.

Employment, military and volunteer history: 30 years as a senior pastor in Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist churches; small business owner for 16 years at Supreme Fire and Safety and Supreme Clean; professor at Armstrong State University; chaplain and human services consultant for State of Indiana Department of Corrections; City of Chicago Mayor's Office Department Senior Citizens; chaplain for the Indiana State Police and Effingham County Sheriff's Department

Public offices held: None

Unsuccessful bids for public office: None

Other prior political and government experience: None

Key endorsements you've received: None

Campaign contributions: $5,335

Campaign expenditures: $2,242

Biggest contributor: Robert Fratz, $500

Why should people vote for you?

Did not answer

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

1. Improved education: We rank as one of the lowest in educational standards and we must demand more from our politicians in district 45 to help reverse this negative trend. If we ever hope the help the next generations. If we ever hope to attract corporate growth and better paying jobs it starts with our schools. We need to attract better pay for quality teachers we need to support our teachers and teacher performances.

2. Family Values: Upholding family values and the sacred trust of marriage. Our current judicial breakdown in the support of family values discloses that South Carolina ranks highest in domestic violence incidents. We need to support laws that reduce domestic violence incidents in our communities.

3. Government Accountability and Lower Taxes: We need to get more bang for our tax payer bucks!

South Carolina Democrats plan to renew their efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state to continue the work of the late-Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who championed Medicaid's benefits to the poor. District 45 spans some of the state's poorest areas. Will you support the efforts to expand Medicaid? If so, how? Be specific.

Did not answer

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? If so, please give the details.

Did not answer

Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.

Did not answer

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

Did not answer

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