District 20 – Meet your Candidates for South Carolina House of Representatives

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This episode of Simple Civics: Greenville County was made possible by support from Beth and Mike Andrews, supporting civic engagement from all of our community’s residents, and Upstate Warrior Solution, a community-based nonprofit organization serving warriors and their families in the upstate of South Carolina, and LiveWell Greenville, bridging access to healthy eating and active living since 2011.

Meet Sarah Curran and Stephen Frank, candidates for South Carolina House of Representatives District 20, generally representing the Taylors area. In this episode, each candidate has 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the voters. Your vote is so important! Please take a listen and share with your neighbors.

Links:

Sarah Curran

Stephen Frank

Sample Ballot

Transcript

Katy Smith:
On Tuesday, June 11th, South Carolina holds its statewide primary elections. I’m Katy Smith with Greater Good Greenville, and over the next several weeks, we are pleased to bring you interviews with most of the candidates in contested primary races for South Carolina House and Senate. Today, we feature candidates Sarah Curran and Stephen Frank, who are running for the Republican primary for House District 20, which generally covers the Taylors area. Whichever candidate wins in June will be on on the ballot facing the single Democrat filer, Stephen Dreyfus, in November. But first, a quick primer on why primaries are so important. The statewide primaries are when political parties choose their candidates to be on the ballot in the general election on November 5th, when we will also vote for president. This primary on June 11th will be for important offices like state legislature, which discusses things such as roads and bridges, education, taxes, abortion, and guns, our county sheriff, and our county council, which considers issues such as zoning, roads, public safety, and more. In the Greenville County area, we have 37 offices across the county that will be on primary ballots. For almost half of those, only one party had candidates that registered to run.

Katy Smith:
Meaning that practically speaking, the June 11th primary is the election. In South Carolina, we don’t register to vote by party, and all primaries are open, meaning that you are free to vote either the Republican or Democratic primary ballot. Of course, there are other parties, but they do not have a primary in our state. We did an episode that explains how this works and we’ll link it in the show notes for you. If you want to see which district you live in and who will be on your ballot, you can check out the links on the episode page for a sample ballot from the South Carolina Election Commission. Here’s how the interviews worked. All candidates received the same question at the time of their invitation to join us, and they were given 10 minutes for their interview. Candidates were allowed to bring along a companion, such as a campaign manager, family member, or friend, and to record our session themselves. There were no edits made to the interview. We’ve put links to the participating candidates’ preferred internet presence on the episode page. First up is Sarah Curran. I’m pleased to be here with Sarah Curran, who is running for House District 20. Thanks so much for joining us, Sarah.

Sarah Curran:
Thank you for having me.

Katy Smith:
Well, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you’re running.

Sarah Curran:
My name is Sarah Curran. I’m running for House District 20, and my number one goal is to phase out the state income tax. I’m a Greenville native. My parents moved to the upstate from West Virginia when I was a baby. I grew up on the west side of Greenville. My dad, Coach Tim, has been a tumbling, gymnastics, and now junior ninja warrior coach for over 30 years. I’m sure many of the people listening have kids or were yourself one of his students. My mom is a nurse for Greenville County Schools. She cares for students that have severe health challenges. My sister owns a ballet studio in Simpsonville, so shout out to Cornerstone Ballet. And my brother joined the Marines right out of school. I have many aunts, uncles, and cousins that live and have serviced our community since the 90s. And pretty much my entire family either works with kids, have small businesses, or both. That sense of community service is what I was raised around.

Sarah Curran:
I’m a graduate of Greenville Tech Charter High School. That’s where I caught the political bug through a great teacher, John Ingalls, who through his coursework created a fascination with me in our country’s founding, our system of government, Western values, and how the economy works. And it helped me realize that every person has a role in shaping the future of our country. I love charter because I graduated high school with an entire year’s worth of college credits under my belt for free. And since I was paying for college myself, I stayed at Greenville Tech another year to knock out my core requirements before I headed to USC in Columbia. That’s where I graduated with my poli-sci degree.

Sarah Curran:
And while I was there, I got the opportunity to intern and work for many political campaigns. And that set me on a path towards working in the conservative movement. Days after I graduated, I started my first real job job working for Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform. There, I got to make sure sneaky politicians didn’t raise your taxes and kept the promises that they made to voters. And for the past 15 years, I’ve been working in and around the conservative movement and all across the country. I’ve been on the ground from Alaska to Hawaii, Maine to Louisiana, and everywhere in between. And trust me when I say you really want to be back home in South Carolina more than anything when you’re being chased by a moose in Anchorage doing doors.

Sarah Curran:
Having so much exposure to all parts of America and working with the grassroots volunteers and candidates has been an absolute privilege because it’s not easy work, but it’s necessary work. And I get to make sure that America stays that shining city on a hill. I love my job. I’m a pretty typical millennial in the sense that I’m mission-motivated. And you have to be in politics. Otherwise, it’s really easy to lose the thread. I met my husband through work, and we’ve been blessed with three awesome kids. And now we have a tech company based in Taylor’s dedicated to helping Republicans do a better job raising money for their campaigns and causes. And when this house seat opened up days before Thanksgiving last year, I got that feeling that this was an opportunity to do some real good and put my experience to work here in South Carolina, mainly to phase out the state income tax, because we shouldn’t have the highest tax rate in the South, but also to prove that you can govern well with conservative public policy. And if we really believe in lower taxes and limited government, then we should be doing exactly that.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues facing your district and the state?

Sarah Curran:
Yeah, people usually only talk about the government when the government lets them down or fails to meet expectations for the services it’s supposed to provide. Unfortunately, the government intersects with our lives at pretty important points. I heard a former governor once explain that the majority of what a state government does is educate, medicate, and incarcerate, which are all very important. And so as it relates to House District 20, educate, let’s make sure our schools are preparing our kids for the big world out there and for them to compete. And not just with their classmates, but with kids across the country and around the world. I think the first step to that is universal school choice. We need to have the dollars follow the students, not the systems, and to give parents the power to find the schools and programs that are best suited to their child’s needs and talents. When it comes to Medicaid, I’ve had a lot of very long conversations with people about this. Tough conversations and a lot of sad conversations, honestly, on some of the constituents in my district’s interactions with the healthcare system. As a state representative, what can I do about it? Well, the first thing is let’s open up the insurance market, including across state lines, and remove barriers to telehealth and preventative care.

Sarah Curran:
I’m coming at this from a very relevant and personal experience. Somebody with self-insurance and three small kids, one of which we’ve had, many close calls and stints in the ICU with. We have to pay so, so much money every month in premiums for the opportunity to pay even more money and really high deductibles should something bad happen to our family. I get it. It’s complicated. It’s complex. But for me, it’s mostly just stressful because I know a lot of other families just like mine who are doing whatever they can do to maintain their coverage just so they aren’t exposed to financial ruin should they have a medical emergency. And I don’t like that. But I’ve learned in life, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that the name of any big federal program has the opposite effect. So the Inflation Reduction Act made inflation worse, and the Affordable Care Act has made healthcare less affordable. So I think we need to do what we can at the state level to triage where we can while we wait for a Republican administration next year to do a better federal fix.

Sarah Curran:
As it comes to incarceration, step one is judicial reform. We need to remove any illusion that our justice system isn’t fair. We need to close the revolving door on violent and repeat offenders through stiff bond and sentencing reform. We need to fully fund our police departments across the state, and we need to focus on raising our clearance rates because, at the end of the day, the number one indicator for having crime go down is have clearance rates go up, meaning we need to solve crimes, arrest the criminals, and send them to jail.

Sarah Curran:
I believe that government should only do the things that government can do, but I believe that those should be done with excellence. We need to limit the scope and raise the standards. Excellence doesn’t mean more expensive. And the big thing that everyone talks about that only the government can do is infrastructure. Our roads, waterways, bridges, sewers, sidewalks, power grid, we need to work on maintenance and expansion. And, you know, the upstate in particular is continuing to experience rapid growth. A worry, though, that the bogey we’re chasing is improving the roads to work for 2024 needs versus 2054 needs. I’m ready to dive right in and attack the problem with the colleagues that are already working on these issues. And I just believe we need to be really aggressive on power generation problems that we’re having. We need to be aggressive on fixing congestion problems. And we need to be really aggressive on our oversight of the current infrastructure projects to make sure that they’re on time and at worst on budget.

Katy Smith:
What would be your priorities if elected?

Sarah Curran:
My priority will be to push for a plan to get South Carolina’s state income tax reduced to zero. As an incoming freshman, I know I won’t be able to do that alone, but I’m already talking with members about a plan that sets us up to compete with Florida and Texas and Tennessee’s tax structure. We can look to states like North Carolina and Georgia’s recent moves to use revenue triggers to reduce the income tax burden in a responsible way. And I’m also a huge proponent of moving to zero-based budgeting practices during the agency budget review every year. Zero-based budgeting would give the governor and the legislature a much better oversight tool to ensure that the people of South Carolina are getting the best ROI for their money. Because I think we need to reward agencies, programs, directors, and their staff for providing excellent service in the most cost-effective way. Incentives or incentivize them to keep costs low without sacrificing excellence. Obviously, there are a lot of other things on the docket too, but that’s one and one A and that’s why I’m running.

Katy Smith:
Well, thank you, Sarah, for joining us. And thank you so much for your willingness to serve our state.

Sarah Curran:
Thank you.

Katy Smith:
Next up is Stephen Frank. Well, I’m pleased to be joined by Stephen Frank, who is running for the Republican primary for South Carolina House District 20. Thanks so much for joining us, Stephen.

Stephen Frank:
Hey, thanks for having me on today. I really appreciate it.

Katy Smith:
Great. Tell us about yourself and why you’re running for office.

Stephen Frank:
Well, I’m from right here in Greenville. I grew up as a faculty kid over at Bob Jones. I’m a native Greenville boy. My wife and I have been married about 14 years coming up here in June. We’ve got four wonderful children. I work on an insurance agency, specialized in commercial insurance and risk management. We’re members over at Ridgewood Church in Greer. I absolutely love our family and community over there. And I’m running for the state house because I believe that your rights come from God and that the first order of government is to protect and uphold those rights. I think our government has failed to protect our rights. We’ve got to stand up to it. So I’m running to be part of the solution. As your voice in Columbia, I’ll fight for limited government and more freedom for we the people.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What do you believe are the biggest issues facing your constituents and the state?

Stephen Frank:
Gosh, there’s so many. We’ll pick a few here that I hear consistently. You know, illegal immigration is out of control. I hear it every day from people. Joe Biden and his federal government in Washington, D.C. have failed us because they’ve essentially flung the door open. You know, the boarders that come on in and every county is now a border county. It’s no longer just El Paso, Texas or San Diego, California’s problem. It’s a Greenville, South Carolina problem, too. So we’ve got to lead where Washington’s failed. We’ve got to pass tough laws in Columbia to safeguard our own people. We’ve got to work with law enforcement to make sure that those laws are carried out. And above all, I think we’ve got to get rid of Joe Biden and his illegal immigrant family-friendly bunch this November.

Stephen Frank:
The other thing I hear every day when I’m knocking on people’s doors is inflation is out of control. It’s beating up on all of us, and it’s beating us hard.

Stephen Frank:
Grocery bills are rivaling house payments. Folks are wondering if they’re going to be able to keep feeding their families the same way with prices going up and up and up month after month. And with a house full of hungry kids and myself, I understand. I get it. But I think the first step, and it’s an important one, is eliminating the state income tax so that you and I can keep more of our own money. That’d give families a better financial cushion each month. And remember, Columbia doesn’t have a money shortage problem. They’ve got a spending problem. We’ve simply got to stop wasting your tax dollars and mine on flub dubs and pet political projects. It’s way beyond time the legislature focuses on essential services that we need and, quite frankly, all too often don’t get. And that kind of leaves me with my third issue I hear consistently is our roads are crumbling, despite being taxed for them. You know, we all know driving down a state-maintained road is really like, you know, going down the Oregon Trail. Why can’t we get the roads we deserve and are already paying for? I think it’s because, like I already said, it’s misplaced spending priorities in Columbia. We need to make the DOT a cabinet position that’s accountable to the government with greater oversight. Until that happens, we’re going to have to keep dodging potholes. But those are some of the things that folks are seriously concerned about. I hear it consistently every day, and they’re the things that Stephen Frank will fight for in Columbia.

Katy Smith:
What would be your priorities if elected this year?

Stephen Frank:
Well, I already touched on that with some of the problems, so I think it’s time we get rid of the state income tax. But it’s not just because I want to make South Carolina more competitive or a better place to be. I believe taxation is theft, pure and simple. We’ve got to quit stealing your family’s income. South Carolina is also rank with corruption. We absolutely must reform our judiciary and how we select judges. You know, we’re one of only two states in the entire union where legislators elect judges. So when 48 out of 50 states do it differently than us, that might tell you something. We need a change because this cozy arrangement keeps violent criminals on the street. A lot of legislators are also lawyers, so they’re essentially picking the very judges that they’re going to argue the cases before. And remember, lawyers often are paid when they win. So this arrangement not only puts money in the pockets of those lawyer legislators, it also keeps bad people from being put behind bars. It’s wrong. We’ve got to stop that now.

Stephen Frank:
We’ve also got to close our primaries. By allowing Democrats to decide our primaries, they’re going to pick the candidates they want. It’s time we stopped letting Democrats decide which Republicans they’re going to send down to join the Columbia swamp. And then we’ve got unprecedented population growth, but our infrastructure can’t sustain that. Our roads are still crumbling like pie crust despite being taxed for those roads on top of all the other taxes we pay. Where’s all that money going? We must get out of the business of corporate welfare. It’s not the government’s job to pick the winners and losers, and quite frankly, they generally pick the losers anyhow.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. We have a little bit more time. Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Stephen Frank:
Oh, those are highlights. You know, we could go on for a while, but, you know, the bottom line, I think, to all of this is things are never going to change in Columbia until we send the people, until we change the people that we send there. So I just humbly ask for the opportunity to turn things around. I’m Stephen Frank. I’ll be your consistently conservative voice in Columbia, and I’d be honored to have your vote in the upcoming primary election.

Katy Smith:
Thank you very much for joining us, and thank you so much for your willingness to serve.

Stephen Frank:
Thank you for having me on. Thank you again. 

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of Podcast Studio X.

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