District 6 – Meet your Candidates for South Carolina Senate

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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 Jason Elliott, candidate for South Carolina Senate District 6. 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. This race also features candidates Ben Carper and Dan Nickles, but they did not respond to our many invitations to participate.

Links:

Jason Elliott

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. On this episode, we feature South Carolina Senate District 6 candidate Jason Elliott. This race, which is the Republican primary, also features candidates Ben Carper and Dan Nickles, but they did not respond to our many invitations to participate. But first, a quick primer on why primaries are so important.

Katy Smith:
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, 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. District 6 Senate had only Republican candidates file. So based on the outcome of the June 11th Republican primary, either Ben Carper, Jason Elliott, or Dan Nichols will be the only candidate on the ballot in November, and thus essentially the winner. 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.

Katy Smith:
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. And now, Jason Elliott. I’m pleased to be joined by Jason Elliott, who is running for South Carolina Senate District 6. Thanks so much for joining us, Jason.

Jason Elliott:
Yeah, Katy, thanks for having me.

Katy Smith:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you’re running for this seat.

Jason Elliott:
Well, I’m a Greenville native, so I was born here in Greenville County, lived in the Travel Rest Area until I was in second grade, and my immediate family then moved over to northern Anderson County. But my whole family, my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are all from Greenville.

Jason Elliott:
We grew up in the San Soucie City View area. A lot of them worked in textile mills. And so I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college. I attended Clemson and then the University of South Carolina School of Law. Started out after I graduated law school prosecuting, and that was probably the best job I’ve ever had. You feel like you’re doing good for a lot of people and feel like you made a positive difference. After that, I worked for Congressman Jim DeMint and ran his district office here in Greenville, and had my own law practice since 2004. 2016, after being involved in Rotary Club and on the Greenville County Legislative Delegation Transportation Committee and the Greenville Tech Charter High School Board, decided to run for statehouse. And the primary took on an incumbent. That’s hard to do.

Jason Elliott:
Was successful in that. And I’m currently serving my eighth year, which is the fourth term in the South Carolina House on Judiciary and Subcommittee Chair of General Law Subcommittee. But I’m running for the State Senate. There’s an opportunity for this. Dwight Loftus, the incumbent, is not running. So I took that opportunity to run and feel like that I’ve been able to work with others to make a positive difference in Greenville and across South Carolina and want to continue doing so. And the Senate provides a different platform, a platform where one of 46 as opposed to one of 124. And so one person there, because of the rules, can be more impactful. So I look forward, hope, with the opportunity to be able to continue to serve Greenville and South Carolina in that role. Thank you.

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

Jason Elliott:
We’re having tremendous growth in Greenville County and all across South Carolina. So we’re a conservative state. I have a very conservative record, which reflects my district and the folks who support me.

Jason Elliott:
We need to make sure that we maintain South Carolina values, and that means making it a good place to work, live, and raise a family, and a place that’s welcoming, a place that provides for others, and without government leading that. I mean, it’s mostly in Greenville. You see that it’s the private sector, it’s churches, it’s philanthropic organizations. The government plays a role in that, but the private sector needs to lead that. And one of the challenges that we face in Greenville across South Carolina, it’s a good challenge to have. We have so many folks who agree that Greenville is a great place to be, and they want to be part of Greenville and South Carolina. And we need to make sure that we are growing in a responsible way and that we’re meeting the needs of South Carolinians. And that means long-term South Carolinians like me and my family and other families who have been here for their whole lives and folks that are moving here. And one thing that I want to make sure that we do is that we are– several things, we have an education system that prepares students when they graduate for either work or college. And we need to make sure that we tell our students who are graduating, you have to make that choice and you make the choice that’s best for you. It might be a degree program. It might be a two-year program. It might be a certificate program.

Jason Elliott:
And we need to make sure that we prepare the students to leave high school ready to go to college or ready to get a job. We need to make sure that we are recruiting folks who can provide high-paying jobs. And we need to branch out. We do great at service industry, and we do great at higher-end manufacturing, and that’s great. And we need to continue to attract those type jobs, but I would like us to focus in South Carolina on the financial sector, on biotech, on life sciences.

Jason Elliott:
Technology, IT, things that in other parts of the country are providing good paying jobs, and there’s no reason we can’t do those here. And we need to make sure that we compare favorably to our neighbors in North Carolina and Georgia. We really compete with the whole world, but most closely we compete with North Carolina and Georgia. And I have a concern that when growth, when in-migration slows to or returns to what would be a normal level, that we have so many folks moving in right now that it may be masking some of our underlying things that we need to work on. Because North Carolina and Georgia have a higher corporate tax base and a higher tax base in general. And those are our most immediate competitors and we need to compare favorably to both of those places.

Katy Smith:
Thank you. What would be your priorities if elected?

Jason Elliott:
Continue to work with others to make a positive difference in Greenville and across the state. What I found, again, government, especially state government, is not the primary driver in Greenville that it might be to a larger degree in Columbia or places like that. The city and county governments do a good job of working together with the private sector to partner to move things in the right direction. The state needs to be a player in that and will be a player in that and at an appropriate level. For instance, primarily, infrastructure with sewers and water, those type of things are more of a local effort, but they have to be complemented and supplemented by state government. Just what we’re doing now in some of the old mill villages, refurbishing sewer lines and water lines. The state has to be a part of that to provide the resources. So when we think of infrastructure, infrastructure is what I hear most when I’m going around talking to people about my current role and when I’m campaigning. Infrastructure, that’s not just roads and bridges. It’s sewer. It’s water.

Jason Elliott:
It’s forms of energy and sources of energy. We’ve also got to work on our capacity with our energy production. In South Carolina, because of our growing population and because of growing industry and residential population and commercial, we’re going to have to take steps to expand our sources of energy and to expand our capacity. That’s one thing that you won’t see. It’s like some other issues that you see the potholes and you hit those, and we know that our roads have to be fixed faster than what we’re doing. But energy, we’re not going to see that we have a problem until we don’t have it. We’ve got to make sure that to continue to expand and grow, we’ve got to do a good job at that.

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

Jason Elliott:
Yeah. What I would say is I would encourage all of the folks who are listening to this, get to know your state representative and your state senator. There are 124 in the House. In Greenville, we have the largest population. So we have 16 out of the 124 members of the House that represent parts of Greenville County. We have about six in the Senate of the 46 that touch part of that. The best time to get to know your state rep or your state senator is before you need something from them. It helps me if a constituent or a person’s phone number, that their contact is in my phone and with their name. I’m much more likely to see it and it resonates with me and you respond quickly. And I would say this, folks like tech, like the world’s moving, folks prefer, a lot of members prefer texts. Once you develop a relationship with them, make sure you tell them who it is and feel free to text them. The earlier you get involved as a person in South Carolina who wants to impact what the legislature is doing, the earlier you get involved, the better. When you see something is being debated on the House or Senate floor, it’s at the very end of the process. And your ability to impact the outcome of that initiative, that bill, or issue is much more limited at the tail end of it than it would be at the beginning. And so if a person is interested in a particular bill or piece of legislation, the best time to talk about that is actually when it’s being drafted. But you can also, anybody in South Carolina can attend a subcommittee hearing and speak on the particular bill. And every time that I’m in a committee hearing, I learn something from that and generally take feedback that we’ve gotten from people across South Carolina to make the legislation better. But, you know, I want to be a part of working with others to make a positive difference in Greenville, and I think I’ve done a good job of doing that. I look forward, hopefully, to have the opportunity to continue doing that. But I would encourage everybody who is listening, I don’t care which primary you vote in and who you vote for, but please participate in primaries. That’s where the overwhelming majority of decisions are made in South Carolina, vote in the primary. So I really appreciate you having me. I’m glad to be here and thank you for what you’re doing.

Katy Smith:
Well, thanks so much for joining us. And thanks so much for your willingness to continue to serve the state.

Jason Elliott:
Thank you. 

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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