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Elected officials and their challengers gathered this week to discuss plans for serving Orangeburg County.

Democratic candidates gathered at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Roquemore Auditorium for a political forum featuring candidates running for S.C. House District 95, Orangeburg County auditor, Orangeburg County Council District 6 and S.C. treasurer.

The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held June 12.

In his opening remarks, Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, said he “had the pleasure to see this state go through a transition over the years.”

“My priorities, should I be blessed to return to the House, is to focus on those issues that are important to you, which I believe have to deal with education, economic development and further addressing the issue of health care in the state of South Carolina” Govan said.

Dr. Kevin Ray, who is challenging Govan, told the audience that he had significant involvement in education, economic development and health care.

“I know something about health care as a practicing physician here in Orangeburg County,” Ray said. He also said as a private citizen, he worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to pass health care legislation.

“I did all of this in 12 years, so imagine if I had 25,” Ray said.

Gene Gartman Jr., who is also running for the seat, said his focus will be the citizens of Orangeburg County.

He said he wants to regulate municipal utilities, “so that we do not have more incurred costs on limited, low-income individuals that have a need.

“Secondly, I will be returning your calls when you call my office in Columbia.”

Orangeburg County Council District 6 candidate Deloris Frazier said she will speak about the issues in the community.

“I would like to make sure that you have a mouthpiece, someone that will speak and talk about the issues that affect you in your daily living,” Frazier said. “I want to be in the trenches with you.”

Frazier spoke of her involvement in bringing sewer to the Edisto Drive area, saying “If I was able to do that and not be an elected official, can’t you imagine what would happen once I get on this board?”

District 6 Councilwoman Ray Wannamaker Sabalis, who won the seat in a special election, said she has developed effective relationships with county officials and her fellow council members.

“I have visited, toured and met with the community leaders about various issues including education, health care, the library, services for persons with special needs,” Sabalis said.

Audrey Asbury, who is running for the position of Orangeburg County auditor, stated that she has experience.

“I’ve been in the auditor’s office for 17 years,” Asbury stated. During that time, she’s had experience in many jobs, she said.

“I bring the wealth of knowledge and the leadership in this office. I never stop,” Asbury said.

Vickie Amaker-Haynes said, “I am so eager to develop and grow the auditor’s office into a premier and leading office in the State of South Carolina.

“By doing so, that means that we need professionalism, collaboration, public awareness and fairness.”

Anthony “Duke” Hallmon, also a candidate for the position of auditor, said he will ensure customers are treated with respect.

“When you elect me, you can be assured that you will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect,” Hallmon said. “I look forward to taking on these responsibilities and much more, to make the auditor’s office more user-friendly.”

Rosalyn Glenn, who is running for the position of state treasurer, was also at the forum. Glenn does not have any challengers in the Democratic primary.

Candidates running for county council were asked how education institutions and the county will work together to ensure more jobs and businesses come to Orangeburg County.

Sabalis said, “We are making sure that the funding for OCtech, the county schools, as well as the Economic Development Commission remain strong.”

Partnerships with schools are creating internship possibilities with local businesses, Sabalis said. She said the duty of OCtech is to prepare students for the jobs that the Economic Development Commission is bringing to the county.

Frazier said she will engage with the community to make improvements.

“We’ve got to search for other jobs so that people will be able to come,” she said.

They were also asked how they plan to bring more economic development to the county.

The issue has to be studied, Frazier said. “How are we going to get people to come into Orangeburg to set up business and how are going to get our people to stay here in Orangeburg and shop?

“We’re going to have to work at that issue.”

Sabalis said that Orangeburg residents’ outlook needs to be changed.

“One of the issues is residents who see the glass half empty rather than half full,” Sabalis said. “I believe there is an attitude change that has to happen before small businesses come to the community.”

Candidates running for the S.C. House District 95 seat were asked about their priorities for the county

Gartman said some of his priorities include lowering taxes on vehicles and electric rates.

“I would like to see municipal regulation of the city (Department of Public Utilities), for example, and all of the other municipalities in the state,” Gartman said.

Ray said his number-one priority is education.

“We must focus on education here in Orangeburg County,” Ray said. “For many, many years the state of South Carolina has under-funded education.” Ray said new and fresh ideas will help increase funds for education.

Govan mentioned the upcoming 2020 census as a way to help with education issues.

“Preparation for the 2020 census will dictate the allocation of federal resources that we receive based on the census population. If we are under-represented, this area along with other areas of the state are going to miss out on a lot of things,” Govan said.

Govan noted that per-pupil funding increased to roughly $2,400. He said more pro-education people must be in office.

The candidates were also asked about health care.

“What we’re going to do is continue the fight to expand Medicaid in the state of South Carolina,” Govan stated.

Ray said, “The expansion of Medicaid is extremely important. Access to care is extremely important, and it is even more important in rural areas and black and brown areas, and Orangeburg checks both of those boxes.”

Gartman said, “We’ve got to improve Medicaid, and the status quo that we’ve had for the past 10 years is not working.”

Gartman also said that private insurers without “fair deductibles” should not be allowed to practice in the state of South Carolina.

Candidates running for the office of auditor were asked if there are any areas that need to be improved at the auditor’s office.

Hallmon said accessibility and educating the community need to be addressed.

“I will be sure and educate the community as far as the resources and the services that are available,” he said.

Amaker-Haynes said she wants to enhance technology in the auditor’s office by creating a cellphone app that customers can use to file their high-mileage forms.

Asbury said customer service in the auditor’s office has room for improvement.

“Under my leadership, I will change customer service,” Asbury said.

Candidates were also asked about internships with the auditor’s office.

Asbury said a summer internship is something she has thought about in the past.

“During the summertime, we can bring somebody in that can help out,” Asbury said. “There are things that can be done for a person for the summer.”

Amaker-Haynes said she would implement a program for young males.

“I would definitely have a program in place for these young males so that they can see what we are doing,” Amaker-Haynes said. She said the program would cater to young African-American males in the Orangeburg community.

Hallmon said he would bring in college students from the three area schools to participate in internships.

“I would get them in and let them do internships, jobs all throughout the year,” Hallmon said. Hallmon said he would bring interns along with him to various forums throughout the county.

Tuesday’s election forum was sponsored by the Orangeburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the Orangeburg Branch of the NAACP and 93.7 FM.

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Contact the writer: bharris@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516

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Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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