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S.C. House District 95 Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, says he’s running for re-election on his 25 years of experience. Challengers, however, called for change during a political forum held in Orangeburg.

Govan, who has held the seat since 1993, is facing Dr. Kevin Ray and Gene Gartman Jr. in the June 12 Democratic primary.

"Twenty five years is too long," Ray said. "It is time for change. Change is necessary for us as a people to move forward."

The candidates spoke to a group of more than 50 people Tuesday evening at the J.W. Stroman Edisto Drive Community Center.

During his closing remarks, Govan said "I am running on my service to the community.

"Through the years, I have fought to save South Carolina State and Denmark Tech,” Govan said. He said he’s fought alongside the community, including Orangeburg County.

Govan said he supported funding for the Edisto Drive community center and for sewer enhancement projects. Govan also spoke of his support for Medicaid expansion, school safety legislation and public and higher education throughout his time in office.

"I am committed and I intend to continue to strive and to be sure that all of us get the kind of representation you deserve," he said.

Gartman questioned Govan's record, saying if a lawmaker can’t fix a problem after years in the legislature “they probably shouldn't be there."

Gartman said his experience in public service and veteran outreach prepared him for the seat.

"I know we have a problem with affordable housing. I know we have a problem with city and state funding that is supposed to come to Orangeburg County and the City of Orangeburg and that there has been a shortage of that over the last couple of years,” he said.

Education reform and teacher pay raises are also needed, he said. "We also need to look at school security and also regulating municipal utilities."

Ray says if he is elected, he will focus on finding creative ways to make sure Orangeburg County receives the funds it deserves when it comes to education and that health care needs are met in the Orangeburg community.

He said public safety and economic development are also key issues.

"I have been very successful at creating jobs myself," Ray said. "I have created over 100 jobs through my company. I believe I have the ability to create jobs for Orangeburg County."

The forum, sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Edisto Drive, allowed candidates three minutes to introduce themselves and present their platforms. They were also given time to answer questions. Harvey Elwood of WOCS 93.7 FM moderated the forum.

The Democratic primary will also feature a race between Orangeburg County Council District 6 Councilwoman Ray Wannamaker Sabalis and challenger Deloris Frazier.

Frazier spoke of her lifelong roots in the Orangeburg community both as a retired teacher in the county’s schools and as a community activist.

"I have been in the trenches with you," she said. "I would love to be your voice for Orangeburg County."

Frazier said she worked with others to bring sewer to Edisto Drive and revitalize the community. She also noted the community is going to have streetlights installed to improve road safety.

"If I can do all of this when I am not elected can you imagine?" Frazier said.

Frazier said she will listen to constituents and have an open-door policy.

Sabalis was not in attendance at the forum as she was serving at an Orangeburg County Council meeting Tuesday.

Also in attendance were Audrey Asbury and Anthony “Duke” Hallmon, who are both running for Orangeburg County auditor as Democrats.

Vickie Amaker Haynes is also running for Orangeburg County auditor as a Democrat, but did not attend. Instead she submitted a note saying she was attending her son's academic awards ceremony.

Asbury said she has 17 years of experience working in the auditor's office and has dealt with high-mileage discounts, homestead exemptions and office work.

"When I walked into the door, there was always something I wanted to learn," she said. "Knowledge is one thing they will never take away from you."

Asbury said, "Once I become your auditor I will modernize technology."

She also said she will be available to explain exemption options.

"I will have open-door forums. If you are a citizen of Orangeburg County, come on in. Ask a question. I am here to work for you,” Asbury said.

Hallmon said he will make sure county residents are made aware of the services available from the auditor's office.

"I look forward to taking on the task of auditor to make the office more user friendly," he said.

Hallmon frequently told those gathered that, "I love you, each and every one of you, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Also, "I will make sure everyone is treated with the utmost dignity and respect."

Yolanda Gore said she came to the forum because she’s interested in learning more about the candidates’ different platforms and to see how they want to bring about change.

"To me being local, it really affects your day to day more so than like a presidential election," Gore said. Elections for sheriff and county council, “matter how you live day to day because it is closer to home."

Gore said she is from the Edisto Drive community and is leaning to voting for the candidates from her community, namely Frazier and Hallmon.

"I am really pulling for them and want to hear some of the things they have to say," Gore said.

The event was described as a forum for all 2018 Orangeburg County political candidates but Chester Palmer, who is running for the District 95 seat as a Republican, said he was not aware of the event until he saw it in the newspaper. He said he never received an invitation. He faces no opposition in the Republican primary.

Another political forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22 in the Roquemore Auditorium on the campus of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. The Roquemore auditorium is located in Building R. The forum will be broadcast live on WOCS.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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