Meet SC runoff election candidates for Congress; Lexington, Richland county Statehouse seats

After interviewing more than 50 political candidates in central Lexington and Richland county voting districts ahead of South Carolina’s June 11, 2024, primary election, The State opinion team interviewed eight others who advanced to June 25 runoff elections in peripheral parts of both counties and one of the two candidates in the third congressional district runoff.

Our new interviews are below.

The Republican Party’s third congressional district race in western South Carolina is the only one of the state’s primary congressional elections that needed a runoff. By law, if no one gets more than half the vote in an SC primary, voters pick between the top two vote-getters two weeks later.

Here are our nine new Q&As, from Republican candidates for Congressional District 3 (Sheri Biggs), Senate District 10 (Charles Bumgardner and incumbent Rep. Billy Garrett) and Senate District 35 (Lindsay Agostini and Mike Jones) and Democratic candidates in Senate District 35 (Austin Floyd and Jeffrey Graham) and State House District 93 (Johnny Felder and former state Rep. Jerry Govan).

Congressional candidate Mark Burns didn’t return repeated voice and email messages.

Each candidate was emailed six questions and given 250 words for each answer as part of our endorsement process. We are publishing our interviews first so readers can assess the candidates on their own. Our runoff endorsements will be published here.

Click here to find our earlier interviews with the Republicans who made runoffs in Senate District 23 (Carlisle Kennedy and incumbent Sen. Katrina Shealy) and Senate District 26 (Jason Guerry and Chris Smith) and the Democrats who made the Senate District 22 runoff (Rep. Ivory Thigpen and Richland County Council member Overture Walker). Our endorsements in those races will not change.

If you have questions about our interviews or endorsements, please email me.

Find your polling place and voting districts here, and click these links for statewide maps of voting districts for Congress, state House of Representatives and state Senate. If this public service helps, please consider supporting our journalism here.

Congressional District 3: Biggs vs. Burns

Sheri Biggs
Sheri Biggs

Sheri Biggs

Q: What will be your top domestic and top international priority in Congress?

A: As your member of Congress, my top domestic priority will be securing our borders to ensure the safety and sovereignty of our nation. The border crisis is a critical challenge that affects every American, from our economy to our security. We must build the wall, stop the flow of illegal aliens and drugs, and replace “catch-and-release” with “stop-and-deport.” This issue has been exacerbated by the current administration’s failure to provide strong leadership, and I am committed to addressing this head-on. As someone who has seen the importance of secure borders firsthand while deployed in the Middle East, I understand that a country without borders is a country with no order.

Internationally, my top priority will be restoring America’s energy independence. Under President Donald Trump, we achieved remarkable energy dominance, but the current administration’s policies have reversed these gains, making us more reliant on foreign energy sources and compromising our national security. We need to reopen pipelines, reduce regulations on domestic energy production, and invest in American energy innovation. Energy independence not only strengthens our economy by creating jobs and lowering costs for consumers but also ensures that we are not vulnerable to foreign influence or energy blackmail.

By focusing on these priorities, we can strengthen our nation both at home and abroad, ensuring a safer, more prosperous future for all Americans.

Editor’s note: The State has a policy to refer to people who cross the border illegally as undocumented immigrants, avoiding words like “illegal” to describe them. We make rare exceptions for direct quotes or official documents. Sheri Biggs’s answer was published as submitted after she was offered the opportunity to change her language and declined.

Q: How would you balance the changing climate with economic and energy concerns?

A: As your member of Congress, I will prioritize policies that protect American jobs and industries while maintaining our energy independence and environmental stewardship.

I believe in a robust energy portfolio that includes traditional sources like oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power. These industries are the backbone of our economy, providing jobs and ensuring affordable energy. We must support these industries by reducing unnecessary regulations. Nuclear power is crucial for South Carolina’s energy grid, and I am thankful for the Oconee Nuclear Station’s contribution.

I support practical environmental policies that focus on clean air and water without succumbing to the alarmist climate change agenda. Energy efficiency and responsible resource management can provide environmental benefits without imposing burdensome costs on our economy.

America needs an all-of-the-above energy approach. However, the Biden administration’s favoritism in energy markets, especially in the oil and gas industry, has hurt Americans who are tired of paying more at the pump and for air conditioning. Utilizing our own resources is essential for energy security and independence.

South Carolina’s growing population requires a reliable energy supply for families and industries. I look forward to advancing pro-America, pro-energy policies in Washington.

Q: What changes would you make to U.S. immigration policy?

A: I will prioritize comprehensive immigration reform to secure our borders, protect American jobs, and uphold the rule of law. The current immigration system is broken and undermines our national security and economic stability.

Here are the key changes I propose:

Firstly, we must secure our borders by completing the wall and enhancing border security measures. This includes increasing the number of border patrol agents, utilizing advanced technology, and ensuring that those who enter our country do so legally. A strong border is essential to maintaining our sovereignty and safety.

Secondly, we need to end policies that encourage illegal immigration. I will push for the elimination of “catch-and-release” and replace it with a “stop-and-deport” policy. Those who enter our country illegally must be swiftly returned to their home countries to deter further illegal crossings.

Thirdly, we must reform our legal immigration system to prioritize merit-based entry. This means welcoming individuals who follow the rules and who can contribute to our economy and society, while also protecting American workers from unfair competition.

By focusing on skills and merit, we can ensure that our immigration system serves the best interests of the United States.

Finally, I will advocate for strict enforcement of immigration laws within our borders. This includes cracking down on sanctuary cities, ensuring that employers verify the legal status of their workers, and holding accountable those who violate immigration laws.

By implementing these changes, we can restore order to our immigration system, protect American jobs, and enhance our national security.

Q: In what circumstances and how late in pregnancy should abortion be legal?

A: As a staunch pro-life advocate, I believe that every life is precious and must be protected from the moment of conception. My stance is rooted in my deep Christian faith and the belief that all life is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, I am firmly against abortion except in the rarest and most extreme circumstances when the life of the mother is in immediate and severe danger and all other medical options have been exhausted.

This is a tragic and rare situation, but one where the primary goal must be to save lives whenever possible. In such cases, medical professionals should work to preserve both the mother and the unborn child if at all feasible.

In any other circumstance, I do not support abortion at any stage of pregnancy. Late-term abortions, in particular, are especially egregious as they involve viable infants who can survive outside the womb with medical assistance. Our society must uphold the sanctity of life and provide support for women facing unplanned pregnancies through counseling, health care, and adoption services.

By fostering a culture that values life and offers compassionate support to mothers, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to be born and thrive. My commitment to protecting the unborn is unwavering, and I will always stand up for the rights of the most vulnerable among us.

Q: How do you view the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and their aftermath?

A: The events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, were deeply troubling and unacceptable. As a strong believer in law and order, I condemn any form of violence and illegal activity. The actions of those who violently breached the Capitol were wrong and do not represent the values of the vast majority of conservatives who believe in peaceful protest and respect for our institutions.

However, I also believe it is important to consider the broader context and the concerns of millions of Americans who feel disenfranchised and distrustful of the electoral process. The right to free speech and peaceful assembly is fundamental, and the frustrations expressed by many on Jan. 6 reflect a profound disillusionment with the government and media.

It is crucial that we address these concerns constructively. We need to ensure transparency and integrity in our elections to restore faith in our democratic system. This means implementing measures such as voter ID laws, ensuring accurate voter rolls, and safeguarding the voting process from fraud and irregularities.

Additionally, the treatment of individuals involved in the Jan. 6 events should be fair and just, with respect for their legal rights. There should be no double standards in how we enforce the law based on political beliefs.

Moving forward, we must unite as a nation on our constitutional principles, uphold the rule of law, and work together to address the issues that divide us.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: Voters should choose me over my opponent, Mark Burns, because I offer a unique blend of real-world experience, proven leadership, and a commitment to conservative principles. As a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, board-certified family and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and licensed nursing home administrator, I have dedicated my life to serving our country and community. My military and health-care backgrounds provide a deep understanding of critical issues like national security and health-care reform.

Mark Burns, while passionate, lacks the practical experience and detailed policy knowledge that I bring. Additionally, he has proven untrustworthy, having lied about his military record, misrepresented his academic credentials, and faced multiple arrests. His voter registration address is also zoned commercial, raising further questions about his integrity.

My military service has taught me discipline, strategic thinking and an unwavering commitment to duty and honor. These qualities will help me address challenges such as securing our borders, strengthening our economy and protecting our constitutional rights. My extensive work in health care has given me firsthand insight into the struggles many Americans face regarding access to quality medical care. I have a clear plan to promote free-market solutions that increase competition and lower costs without compromising care quality.

Voters deserve a representative who shares their values and has the skills, integrity and experience to translate those values into effective policy. I am that candidate, ready to fight for South Carolina’s Third Congressional District with dedication and a proven track record of service.

Mark Burns did not reply.

State House District 93: Felder vs. Govan

Johnny Felder
Johnny Felder

Johnny Felder

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: 1. Expanding Medicaid: South Carolina is one of only 10 states that has not expanded Medicaid, leaving 345,000 people without access to affordable health care. Expanding Medicaid is crucial because it ensures that our most vulnerable populations receive the care they need, and it allows South Carolina to utilize federal funds that we are currently forfeiting. Without Medicaid expansion, our taxpayers will miss out on billions of dollars over the next decade.

2. Improving public education: I believe every child has the right to a high-quality education. Improving our public schools and vocational/trade education systems is essential for preparing our children for the future and for attracting job opportunities to our district. By raising teacher pay, providing teachers more autonomy in the classroom and improving resources available for teachers, we can reduce the statewide teacher shortage and enhance the overall quality of education.

3. Economic development: To address the economic disparities in House District 93, we need to focus on creating job opportunities and improving infrastructure. Establishing regional economic development offices, urging the different counties in District 93 to work together to benefit the district as a whole, investing in workforce training, and upgrading our roads and infrastructure will help attract businesses and create jobs, making our district more competitive and prosperous.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: 1. Increase funding for public education: I would advocate for increased funding for public schools to ensure that teachers are adequately compensated and that schools have the resources they need to provide a high-quality education. This includes better salaries for teachers, more funding for vocational and trade programs, and improved resources for the classroom to attract and retain quality educators.

2. Invest in rural health care: I would push for a reallocation of state funds to support the expansion of Medicaid and improve health-care infrastructure in rural areas. This would include funding for clinics, hospitals and healthcare programs that serve underserved populations, ensuring that all South Carolinians have access to the medical care they need.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: I would advocate for a comprehensive energy assessment that evaluates our current energy consumption, resources and infrastructure, specifically by:

• Investing in renewable energy. Promoting the development and use of renewable energy sources and providing incentives for renewable energy projects can help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and create green jobs.

• Improving energy efficiency. Implementing energy efficiency programs for homes, businesses and public buildings would reduce overall energy consumption. This includes modernizing our power grid and supporting the adoption of energy-efficient technologies.

• Supporting research and innovation. Investing in research and development of new energy technologies and innovations can provide sustainable and cost-effective energy solutions for the future.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?


• Expanding affordable housing. Encourage the development of affordable housing through incentives for builders and developers, as well as public-private partnerships. This would include support for low-income housing projects and programs that assist first-time homebuyers.

• Smart urban planning. Promote smart urban planning practices that balance development with the preservation of natural resources. This includes zoning reforms, higher-density housing in urban areas and mixed-use developments that reduce urban sprawl.

• Improving infrastructure. Invest in the infrastructure needed to support growing communities, such as transportation, water and sewer systems. Ensuring that our infrastructure keeps pace with population growth is essential for maintaining a high quality of life.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?


• Increase teacher salaries. Raise teacher pay to attract and retain qualified educators, making teaching a more attractive and sustainable career.

• Enhance vocational and trade education. Strengthen vocational and trade programs to provide students with practical skills and career pathways that meet the needs of our local economy.

• Support school libraries and librarians. Ensure that school libraries are well-funded and that librarians have the resources to promote intellectual freedom and access to diverse materials.

• Parental involvement. Encourage parental involvement and address concerns about educational content while respecting the principles of intellectual freedom and diversity.

• Invest in early childhood education. Expand access to early childhood education programs to ensure that all children have a strong foundation for learning.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: I want to help build communities, and our campaign has consistently reflected that mission. We have engaged a new generation of voters and galvanized support across the district.

As a basketball coach, I learned the importance of teamwork and building a consensus for the common good. I have dedicated my legal career to helping others. I am a past president and board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a six-year board member of the South Carolina Association of Justice, and I worked for many years as a board member of the Monday after the Masters charity event. For years, I was a staff member of Palmetto Boys State, one of the most prestigious citizenship and leadership programs in the country. I also bring a deep understanding of the needs and values of House District 93 after growing up in Calhoun County and watching my father serve in this seat.

My background in justice, advocacy and leadership, coupled with my dedication to improving health care, education and economic opportunities, uniquely positions me to address the challenges we face in District 93. I offer commonsense solutions, a proven track record of service and a genuine desire to make District 93 a better place for all its residents. Through my law practice and involvement over the years with various issues at the Statehouse, I have developed strong relationships with legislators and senators in both parties — I can utilize my experience and those relationships in advocating for the citizens of District 93.

Jerry Govan

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: Education for me will continue to be priority one, at the prekindergarten, K-12 and higher education level.

Secondly, I believe that we must do a better job of keeping our population healthy. South Carolina’s health disparities clearly present a hindrance to the future growth and prosperity of our state.

My third priority is to seek opportunities for collaboration in order to circumvent the gridlock that plagues us when it comes to solving problems or addressing the challenges that we face as a state and to ensure that rural areas such as District 93, which I seek to represent, are not left behind when it comes to reaping the benefits of prosperity and success.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: I think transparency and accountability are the first two areas that we need to explore when you consider our budgetary process. I am flabbergasted when people ask me about the $1 billion fund issue.

Look, taxpayers trust us with their hard-earned tax money. We should do a better job of taking care of it.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: The cost of energy is ridiculous. People in many instances are having to choose between having to pay the rent, medical bills and food or keep the lights on. We need to ensure that the Public Service Commission is operating efficiently as it should and protect the public when it comes to price gouging.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: First, we need to adopt a statewide outlook utilizing the concept of “smart growth,” which is an overall approach of development and conservation strategies that can help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, socially diverse and resilient to climate change.

Secondly, because we are still very much a rural state, we must find ways to provide socioeconomic opportunity through better job opportunities, access to transportation such as high-speed rail. and affordable housing.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: The most immediate thing that the state should do is to change the constitutional educational provision from “minimally adequate” to “high quality” when it comes to what we are tasked to provide for the children of our state.

Secondly, we should be consistent when it comes to providing our teachers and support personnel with adequate pay that is competitive enough to keep us from losing them to neighboring states that provide them with better salaries and other incentives.

But perhaps most importantly, we need to reimagine education in South Carolina in such a way that meets our children where they are and provides them with a path of opportunity regardless of their ZIP code or socioeconomic status.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: Without question, I am the most qualified candidate in terms of education, background and experience. However, what really separates me from my opponent is having actually been a part of the significant changes that have

taken place over the years but yet having a clear understanding that we still have a long way to go and the importance of being able to put aside our bias and self-interests in order to get there.

Senate District 10: Republicans Bumgardner vs. Garrett

Charles Bumgardner
Charles Bumgardner

Charles Bumgardner

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: Term limits: Serving the public as an elected official should be a calling, not a career. Career politicians need a deadline for their work — term limits for their time in office. I will work for election reforms that include term limits for all legislators.

Infrastructure: We depend on roads and bridges that have been neglected or patched for so long that many need to be rebuilt. Our state is a beautiful place to call home, and folks around the country are moving to South Carolina to enjoy our way of living. This growth is putting even more strain on our undermaintained roads and bridges. We need safe roads to drive on and a plan for growth that works for current and future needs. We need an infrastructure plan that will address traffic, invest in our roads and bridges and maintain the great quality of life we get to experience in District 10. I will fight to ensure the Legislature prioritizes real fixes to our infrastructure, not sweetheart deals or projects that lead to nowhere.

Judicial reform - Our judicial system is in dire need of reform. The way judges are appointed now is essentially the fox guarding the hen house. Lawyer legislators are appointing judges who will hear and rule on cases they’ll bring as practicing attorneys. South Carolinians deserve a better legal system than one of fancy legal maneuvering and no accountability. As a state senator, I will propose legislation that allows increased transparency and accountability in our judiciary.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: Accountability: We need to hold companies accountable for the economic incentives we’ve offered to bring their business here. Our state has wasted millions giving economic incentives to companies that have not delivered on their end of the deal in terms of the jobs, facilities or local economic growth that was promised. I know firsthand that South Carolina is a great state to do business, but we can’t let companies take advantage of our economic incentives and great state without creating any value in return.

Better budgeting planning and cycles: Having started a small business that I’ve grown and successfully run for more than 30 years, I understand the financial management required to make smart budget decisions that meet current needs, prepare for a rainy day, and plan for future growth. I would explore the feasibility of a two-year state budget cycle. The General Assembly spends the bulk of its time on the state budget. Now that the legislative session has been shortened, spending so much time on the budget makes it much more difficult to address meaningful legislation. Since this year’s budget maintained last year’s funding levels, it seems to be more beneficial to South Carolinians for the legislature to set a two-year budget.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: We need to hold the bureaucracy accountable. The South Carolina Legislature decided to spend billions on a nuclear power plant and left us to pick up the tab, even as costs soared higher and higher. We paid South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper $9 billion to dig a hole in the ground and fill it back in. Better accountability for our bureaucratic systems and their decision-making processes will protect the public from sweetheart deals that enrich shareholders but don’t provide any value for South Carolinians.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply & demand?

A: We need to make sure that our roads and infrastructure are able to keep up BEFORE we approve new growth. I am pleased that more families have decided to make our Midlands community their home, but we must not allow recent growth to destroy the quality of life for our existing residents.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: I’ve heard from many teachers about ways to best support teaching and learning, and I believe that we can improve our education system for students and teachers by:

1) Reducing student-teacher ratios

2) Getting back to curriculum basics. Reading, writing and arithmetic still form the basis of a quality education even in the digital age. We need to make sure that kids in each school have the same standards and expectations so that teachers and students have the tools they need to succeed.

3) Reducing high-stakes testing. Too many teachers are now forced to teach for a test rather than being able to better help students learn material. Students and teachers need a more balanced approach.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: If we want better outcomes than what we have experienced in the past, we need new leaders who aren’t tied to old, self-serving ways. I’m not a lawyer. As a health-care professional, small business owner and former first responder, I have real-world experience to fight for effective, commonsense solutions that tackle real challenges we’re facing.

I have the financial management experience necessary to make smart, fiscally conservative budget decisions that benefit South Carolinians. As a successful small business owner of over 37 years, I have made payroll, personnel management decisions and budgets that meet today’s needs while planning for future growth.

I understand how to work with state government and administrations to make effective change. I’ve served on the South Carolina Board of Dentistry.

Nothing will change if we elect more of the same, and the people of District 10 deserve better representation in the Senate. I will be a senator who listens to and serves the people of Saluda, Lexington and Greenwood counties.

Billy Garrett
Billy Garrett

Incumbent Rep. Billy Garrett

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: I believe that we have been blessed to live in the greatest state in America. The beauty that surrounds us is unrivaled, but most of all, our people are what define South Carolina most. But we’re not without our challenges, and we must recognize that.

While there is no shortage of ways we can improve the daily lives of our people, the three I hear most about are public safety, roads and infrastructure, and our tax system.

If our communities and our schools are not safe, then we have no society at all. During my term in the Senate, I have sponsored legislation to help make our state safer by cracking down on deadly fentanyl, creating an illegal immigration task force with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), passing bond reform, and increasing funding for law enforcement.

Infrastructure is more than just filling potholes or resurfacing roads. Traffic congestion in the fast-growing areas of our state is a real problem that leads to long commutes and more traffic accidents. Long-term planning of road and infrastructure projects to handle the growth is vital.

In the past few years, we’ve made great strides giving money back to the taxpayers and cutting taxes, but more must be done specific to comprehensive tax reform.

Year-over-year large surpluses are no way to budget for the state. We can and should finally address holistic tax reform to help our people and our businesses.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: My constituents feel the pains of inflation and failed economic policies of Washington, D.C., every day. At the gas pump, in the grocery store, shopping online, at the banks and in the pocketbooks, everything costs more these days.

It’s times like these that the state, South Carolina, can do more to lessen the financial burdens that hardworking families and individuals are going through.

The first thing we can do to address spending and weather difficult financial times is ensure that our own financial house is in order. We did that as a Legislature by increasing the state’s “rainy-day savings fund.” As a father and businessman, I know that if fiscal responsibility and saving is good for my family, and good for my business, it’s good for South Carolina, too.

I will do everything possible to help cut spending, raise savings, support families, and stimulate economic growth.

But specifically, one of the things that I’ve helped champion is transparency in spending, particularly with earmark reform. The Senate took significant steps to shine some sunshine on the earmark process, which I think is a good thing. There is nothing inherently wrong with fighting for funding for your district, but when that comes by backroom deals and hidden rolled-up line items, that is wrong.

We have made great strides to improve spending transparency, and there’s more still to be done.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: Energy security is our national and state security. There’s a rising concern about South Carolina’s energy grid and its sustainability. This is something we shouldn’t take lightly. We need to remain vigilant about long-term energy capacity. It literally impacts everything we do in our modern world from health care to education, entertainment to food storage, and everything in between.

Over the years, the Legislature has opened the door for new alternative energy markets and solutions — this is a good thing — but we also need to remember not to throw traditional energy creation out along with it. Our energy policy should be robust, reliable and diverse. As we approach energy policy into the future, that should remain in focus.

We also need to have many stakeholders at the table to put our heads together and come up with sound policies. Taxpayers, ratepayers, energy companies, producers, manufacturers, business and industry, and associations should all have their voice heard in the area of the future of energy policy.

The issue of sustainable energy should not be a partisan one. While it has been corrupted, primarily by national pundits, I believe that we can collaborate and come together on this all too important issue.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: According to the latest U.S. Census data, South Carolina was the fastest-growing state in the nation. Think about how incredible that is. But it makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to come here? We live in one of the greatest places in the world.

However, increased migration and development, without long-term planning on management, leads to out of control growth and will put immense stresses on road conditions, traffic congestion, schools and development.

It starts with long-term planning. We must recognize that this challenge is not going anywhere soon, and we must not only address the issues of today, but also how this will impact South Carolina for the decades to come.

Our state’s geographic diversity is another area that makes us special. We have areas of our state that are population centers, some whose economy is focused on tourism, some manufacturing, and some technology, but we have rural areas of our state in which agribusiness leads the industry.

I believe that while the state certainly has a role in addressing growth and housing supply, we ought to listen to our local leaders and community. While regions of our state welcome new development and growth, we have other areas that have felt overwhelmed by development, and the infrastructure has suffered as a result.

Smart planning, long-term solutions, listen to the localities is the right approach.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: We do have an obligation that every child in South Carolina be given the opportunity to receive a high-quality education.

As a grandfather of two boys currently in Lexington County public schools, education remains a top priority for me. I have been pleased that as a state senator, I have been able to help secure hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for schools in Senate District 10. Additionally, I voted to increase starting teacher pay to record levels, and sponsored legislation to give parents a voice more than ever. All these things play a role in ensuring that high-quality education for the next generation.

But our workforce also depends on it. We, of course, want to ensure that the next generation is well educated so they can be the best and brightest of our citizenry, but our children are also the next generation of leaders and workers. South Carolina has a robust partnership between the high schools and regional technical colleges. This is an incredibly important relationship that we don’t talk about nearly enough. From K-12 through technical colleges and other higher education, our job creators rely on these partnerships for their workforce. We should continue expanding these opportunities for students.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: I ran for the state Senate to help end “business as usual,” and make a conservative change for South Carolina. In my first three years in office, we’ve done just that.

I have been honored to help support legislation to make our state safer by cracking down on dangerous drugs, and to defend and fund law enforcement — not defund it. We have protected our Second Amendment rights, removed politics from the classroom so teachers can teach and children can learn, and saved the lives of the precious preborn.

I also have delivered more than $540 million in critically needed projects for our communities — for local schools, technical and trade colleges, health-care facilities, urgent care centers, high speed broadband internet expansion, protection of our waterways and lakes, and new funds for law enforcement and first responders — which are at record levels, all while sending back $1 billion to our state’s taxpayers.

I have led with the motto of “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” But we’re just getting started!

It’s that very record of getting things done that earned me the endorsement of Gov. Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Attorney General Alan Wilson, Congressman Joe Wilson and many sheriffs, legislators, solicitors and community leaders as well.

My commitment is simple: I will always remain accessible. I will always be accountable to no one but you. No senator will work harder than I will to develop solutions to these complex issues, and I would be honored to have your vote.

Senate District 35: Democrats Floyd vs. Graham

Austin Floyd
Austin Floyd

Austin Floyd

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: My top priorities are reducing crime, improving education and bringing new jobs.

Crime diminishes our communities to a point where people don’t enjoy or participate in their neighborhoods. We must hold citizens accountable for their actions while working collaboratively with law enforcement and coalitions to improve outcomes. We also have to address the issues of poverty, addictions and conflict resolution training that often perpetuate crime. Some believe that when people have what they need, they don’t steal or kill to get what they need. Honestly, both Adam and Eve had everything they needed, and they still committed the ultimate crime/sin. I say this because, although we cannot control people’s every action, we can ensure we do our part to:

  • address addiction/mental health (which are drivers of crime),

  • bring quality high-paying jobs to our region so people have what they need,

  • teach citizenship values in public education early on,

  • and hold those accountable who make our communities less safe.

My doctoral studies reminded me that education, jobs, crime and opportunities are all related. When we invest in our city’s infrastructure, we attract more jobs and have safer communities. When we provide access to reduced-cost technical two-year education, local South Carolina individuals are hired and families are positively impacted. When we listen to what the people in our region really need, and work to equitably respond to that amid competing interest, it builds trust, increases community participation and allows us to address the needs of veterans, seniors and vulnerable communities.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: I would look at the way our K-12 system spends its funds. There is not a doubt that our education system is underfunded, especially at schools in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods that need more funds to retain teachers and teach students. When we look at what education does for a child on a more holistic level we see that it: ensures their emotional and mental health are in check; provides them with meals; gives them tools to become productive citizens by equipping them with soft and technical skills; fills in the gaps for students who’ve experienced barriers or have special learning needs; and exposes their minds to new worlds.

Our educational system needs additional funding specifically for supportive services so our students receive a quality holistic education. I think we need to reevaluate educational spending, provide training to district-level fiscal agents to ensure financial accountability, and provide annual teacher pay and retention increases.

Secondly, I would work with regional economic development boards and state associations to ensure we are wisely spending state funds on economic projects that will provide a return on our investment. As a state legislator, I would request a statewide study to upgrade our water, sewer, energy and land in many regions across our state, especially in District 35, which has attracted both new people and industry/investments over the years. Establishing a plan for both booming economic regions and economically-lagging rural communities will put us in a really great position over the next 15 years.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: We currently lose industry opportunities because South Carolina’s energy structure cannot meet the needs of emerging companies. As one of the fastest-growing states in the nation, we must prepare for growth by increasing our utility capacity. Increasing energy capacity does not equate to lax oversight, but the opposite: establishing an oversight committee that will expand and streamline the use of natural gas, hydroelectric power and untapped energy sources. South Carolina’s history with energy expansion makes it imperative for us to get this one right.

I support the responsible diversification of clean energy sources for our state. Thinking there is one great fix or answer will lead to failed attempts at solving this problem. I will prioritize tax incentives for homeowners who want to diversify their energy sources and encourage more businesses to think outside the box, using geothermal and other forms of energy for heating and cooling needs. Lightening the burden we’re currently putting on our electrical grid while legislatively streamlining new energy sources is the best way to meet the state’s future energy needs.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: Growth and housing demand is not a foreign issue in District 35. We are diverse with two military bases and one of the fastest growing counties in the region.

Housing supply and demand should first be addressed through planned development. When cities and counties have planned and partnered well for growth, they are prepared to address the educational, public services, environmental and transportation impacts of new housing and development. Effective and updated county master plans will provide new residents with quality housing and give current residents an opportunity to still enjoy the small-town feel of the neighborhoods in Sumter, Lee, northeast Richland and Kershaw counties. Planning where growth will take place will allow legislative tax incentives for developers to have the best return on investment in our region.

It’s important that as we build new homes, that a percentage remain “attainable” for individuals who are everyday working-class people (cops, nurses, teachers). This will deter a flood of expensive homes and keep local residents local.

Dealing with dilapidated and abandoned homes in the region can also address the housing supply issue. Leaning on federal grants and ensuring we provide incentives for rural/historic district home improvement can help inventory problems and allow families to keep and improve their homes if they desire to do so.

We also want to ensure new neighborhoods have high walkability scores and environmentally safe systems and create new jobs from the groundbreaking ceremony all the way through the sale of the home when a new family enters.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: I am the 2024-2025 teacher of the year, I have a doctor of education degree, and my son attends the local public middle school. Improving education is important to me.

I believe that when an 18-year old graduates from a South Carolina public school, they should leave with a skill that will increase their earning potential. We should partner with county councils to invest in career and technology centers in every county. Some places have gotten this right, but other high school students do not have access to state-of-the-art equipment or expanded vocational opportunities. Public schools without a state-of-the-art career center should partner with technical colleges to offer “technical’‘ dual-enrollment opportunities in welding, nursing, manufacturing and other in-demand fields. Allowing young people who don’t have access to quality local training to enroll in in-demand technical degrees/certifications can bring jobs and produce better outcomes.

The state should provide retention grants for teachers who choose to continue serving as well as incentives for teachers who work in our most under-resourced schools. As an educator, I’ve experienced overcrowded classrooms, minimal supportive services (tutoring, after-school programs, low student resources), and teacher burnout as a result of low pay and high responsibilities. We need to pay teachers more and provide funding for supportive programs.

Also, I am open to listening as I respect the diversity of our problems and the array of solutions that exist in our state regarding education. Visit to learn more.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: Voters should look at the candidates’ records, examine our hearts, and think about who resonates most with their needs and voice this election season. If someone else resonates more loudly, examine why and go talk with them. My heart is pure in wishing to serve my region at a greater level. I’d be honored to have YOUR support and vote in both the runoff election and on Nov. 5. I can be reached at (803) 720-9295.

Jeffrey Graham
Jeffrey Graham

Jeffrey Graham

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: As the former mayor of a small town, I recognize that infrastructure and economic development must be priorities for Sumter, Lee, Richland and Kershaw counties. The addition of advanced manufacturing and other industrial jobs that require a skilled workforce keeps our overall tax base low and provides essential opportunities for young adults to return to or stay in our communities, and reduces the need to commute long distances. None of it works, however, if our roads, bridges and public utilities are in disrepair.

Improving education in South Carolina is crucial. By enhancing our curriculum to include more career and technical education, fostering partnerships with local businesses for internships and apprenticeships, and providing access to advanced technology and resources, we can equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for today’s job market. Investing in teacher training and support will also ensure that educators can deliver high-quality instruction that meets the demands of modern industries. By prioritizing these improvements, we can create a robust educational system that boosts student achievement and drives economic growth and prosperity across the state.

Protecting women’s medical freedom in South Carolina is fundamental to ensuring equality and justice for all. This includes advocating for comprehensive health-care access, enforcing equal pay and supporting policies that prevent gender-based violence and discrimination. By implementing strong legal protections and fostering an inclusive environment, we can empower women to fully participate in all aspects of society, from the workplace to the political arena, promoting a more equitable and thriving state for everyone.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: Serving on the Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments as a current Camden City Council member, I have learned that South Carolina does not maximize its federal funding. Maximizing this funding mechanism is crucial for the state’s growth and development. By strategically matching state tax dollars, we can leverage additional federal resources to enhance public services, infrastructure and community programs. This approach amplifies the impact of our investments. Prioritizing the alignment of state and federal funds is a smart and effective way to support our state’s progress and prosperity. We are leaving money on the table.

Ensuring that all funds are allocated correctly and spent according to the state budget is crucial for maintaining transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. Rigorous oversight mechanisms, including regular audits and comprehensive reporting, help to guarantee that taxpayer dollars are used effectively and efficiently. By closely monitoring expenditures and adhering to budgetary allocations, we can prevent mismanagement and fraud, and be assured that resources are directed towards their intended purposes, such as education, health care and infrastructure. This diligent financial stewardship fosters public trust and ensures that state funds are used to maximize benefits for all South Carolinians.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: Our state’s availability of power is in dire straits, and the problem rests solely at the feet of those that failed in developing the V.C. Summer nuclear facility and the lack of political leadership to develop alternative solutions in the aftermath of that failure. I’m a proponent of renewable energy and we need to find creative ways to couple solar energy with battery storage systems. BUT we cannot mothball another existing facility in the state until we have developed a comprehensive pathway forward. Without a strategic plan, rolling blackouts and lost economic development opportunities are right around the corner.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: South Carolina was the No. 1 state for inbound migration from other parts of the U.S. last year, but it’s been in the top 10 for a decade. Therefore, rapid population growth is not a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, too many politicians have buried their heads in the sand about how to address the growing demand on government services and infrastructure. Communities need ambitious,comprehensive plans, on both a local and regional level, that set solid strategies for growth but are flexible enough that they can accommodate accelerated time frames and necessary adjustments, as needed. Moreover, some of the components are long-term solutions, and we can’t allow haphazard changes based on two- and four-year election cycles.

Reviewing and adjusting outdated land use requirements in South Carolina is essential for fostering sustainable development and addressing the evolving needs of our communities. Modernizing these regulations will help balance growth with environmental preservation, ensuring that development projects are both economically beneficial and ecologically responsible. By incorporating contemporary planning practices and community input, we can create more efficient land use policies that support affordable housing, enhance public spaces, and protect natural resources. This proactive approach will promote smart growth, improve quality of life, and ensure that our land use strategies align with the long-term goals of our state.Leveraging public-private partnerships in South Carolina will foster a diverse range of housing options and revitalize underutilized areas. By collaborating with private developers, community organizations and local government, we can unlock opportunities for mixed-use developments and affordable housing.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: Increasing state funding to raise teacher pay in rural school districts is essential for addressing educational disparities and attracting high-quality educators to these areas. By offering competitive salaries and incentives, we can ensure that rural schools are staffed with talented, dedicated teachers who are committed to student success. This investment not only helps to improve educational outcomes but also strengthens communities by fostering a supportive and enriching learning environment. Prioritizing teacher pay in rural districts demonstrates our commitment to providing equitable education for all students, regardless of their location.

Continuing to increase state funding for the construction and maintenance of rural schools is vital for ensuring that all students have access to safe, modern and well-equipped learning environments. Adequate funding allows for the renovation of outdated facilities, the construction of new buildings to accommodate growing student populations, and the ongoing upkeep necessary to maintain high standards. By investing in the infrastructure of rural schools, we can provide students with the resources they need to succeed academically and create a positive atmosphere that is conducive to learning.

I am committed to fully funding all state school funding formulas to ensure that every student in our state receives a high-quality education. By allocating the necessary resources, we can address disparities between districts, support essential programs, and provide schools with the tools they need to thrive. Fully funding these formulas demonstrates our dedication to educational equity and excellence, allowing every child, regardless of their background or location, to access the opportunities they deserve.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: Experience in state and local government matters when it comes to the Legislature. I have been involved for some time now in balancing budgets, resolving policy issues and helping constituents find answers to problems. There is a learning curve to becoming an effective elected representative of your community, and I can hit the ground running from day one to ensure that Sumter, Richland, Lee and Kershaw counties have a productive voice in the Legislature.

Senate District 35: Republicans Agostini vs. Jones

Lindsay Agostini
Lindsay Agostini

Lindsay Agostini

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: My No. 1 priority is to always back the blue. Our first responders and state law enforcement need to know we have their backs, and they need better pay and public support. Innocent families are being torn apart by the deadly drugs crossing the nation’s southern border. The state must do more to address these illegal drugs and the rise in violence caused by illegal immigrants. I also believe it is past time to fix our roads and bridges. Midlands counties have experienced rapid growth, and many of our local roads need immediate attention. Third, as past chair of a local school board, I know there is wasteful education spending that can be better invested directly in the classroom.

Editor’s note: The State has a policy to refer to people who cross the border illegally as undocumented immigrants, avoiding words like “illegal” to describe them. We make rare exceptions for direct quotes or official documents. Lindsay Agostini’s answer was published as submitted after she was offered the opportunity to change her language and declined.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: I believe we need zero-based budgeting. State agencies need to start over each year and prove why each program is worth being funded. Government needs to be more transparent and accountable for these tax dollars. Annual recurring spending for outdated state programs makes no sense. I will also push for an independent audit each year for every state cabinet agency and especially the office of the state treasurer.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: It is past time for South Carolina to embrace an all-of-the-above energy strategy. The state should encourage nuclear and more clean renewable power sources like solar, hydro, wind and natural gas because they are reliable and affordable alternatives to coal.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: The Midlands area is experiencing rapid growth, and our local roads are not keeping pace. We need to build smarter and grow our infrastructure to support it. Working with local leaders to better understand the impact of the demand for more housing and better roads is critical.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: Fully support parents, students and teachers. We need to pay teachers more and provide better safety in every public school. There is no easy fix for our state’s education problems, but I do believe South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver is leading us down the right path. One way to fix many of the problems in the classroom these days is to get rid of student’s phones in the schools. Too much phone screen time in school is adversely affecting these students’ educational growth and causing a rise in unsafe and disruptive behavior.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: This is an open seat held by Democrats for decades. Simply put, Republicans need a candidate who can win in November. I am the only candidate left in this race who can defeat the Democrats in November. My opponent does not have the resources or the ability to attract a majority of voters needed to win in the fall. I have a proven conservative record on the Richland County School District 2 Board, and I can win.

Mike Jones
Mike Jones

Mike Jones

Q: What are your top three priorities and why?

A: My top three priorities are improving infrastructure, supporting parental choice in education and easing the tax burden on individuals and small businesses. These priorities reflect my commitment to creating a prosperous and inclusive society.

First, improving infrastructure is critical for economic growth and quality of life. Upgrading roads, bridges and public transportation will not only enhance safety but also boost local economies by facilitating trade and travel. Modern infrastructure attracts businesses and creates jobs, thereby fostering a robust economy.

Second, I advocate for parental choice in education to empower families and enhance educational outcomes. Parents should have the freedom to choose the best educational path for their children, whether it be public, charter, private schooling, or homeschooling. This freedom fosters a competitive environment that encourages schools to innovate and improve. Parental choice ensures that education meets diverse needs, respects family values, and maximizes each child’s potential by allowing parents to select the learning environment best suited to their child’s unique abilities and interests.

Finally, easing the tax burden on individuals and small businesses is essential for economic vitality. High taxes can stifle innovation and entrepreneurship, making it difficult for small businesses to thrive. By reducing tax burdens, we empower individuals to save and invest, and we enable small businesses to expand and create jobs. This approach promotes economic growth and provides more opportunities for everyone to succeed.

Q: What two immediate changes would you try to make to state spending?

A: Two immediate changes I would try to make are ensuring proper allocation of funding and enhancing government efficiency.

First, it is imperative to guarantee that state funds are directed toward their intended purposes. Misallocated or wasted funds hinder progress and erode public trust. By auditing expenditures and increasing transparency, we can prevent misuse and ensure that resources effectively address critical needs such as education, health care and infrastructure. Accurate and efficient allocation of funds maximizes the impact of every taxpayer dollar, delivering essential services more effectively and improving the quality of life for our citizens.

Second, making government operations more efficient involves reducing bureaucratic red tape and consolidating agencies. Streamlining processes eliminates unnecessary delays and costs, making it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government. Consolidating agencies that perform overlapping functions reduces redundancies, saves money, and improves service delivery. Simplifying regulatory requirements and cutting down on paperwork allows businesses to operate more freely and efficiently, encouraging growth and innovation.

By ensuring funds are used effectively, cutting taxes and optimizing government operations, we create a more efficient, responsive and economically vibrant state that better serves the citizens of South Carolina and its businesses.

Q: How would you assess and meet the state’s future energy needs?

A: Meeting our state’s future energy needs requires a multifaceted approach. It’s the fastest-growing state in the nation, and we must work with our energy partners to ensure South Carolina’s energy grid is stable for generations to come. According to experts, nuclear power is the most reliable energy source because of its ability to produce maximum power for 92% of the year. In 2022, nuclear energy produced 55%, natural gas produced 24%, coal-fired power plants produced 14%, and renewable resources, including solar power, hydroelectric power, and biomass consisting of wood waste and landfill gas produced 7% of the state’s total power generation.

First, increasing domestic energy production is essential for energy independence and economic stability. By investing in the development and revitalization of our current energy sources, we reduce our reliance on volatile foreign energy markets. This enhances national security and provides a stable supply of energy, shielding us from geopolitical disruptions. Expanding domestic energy production creates jobs, stimulates local economies and keeps energy prices more predictable and affordable for consumers and businesses alike. These strategies will reduce dependence on foreign energy, enhance energy security and support a sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure.

Second, we must continue to integrate traditional energy sources with renewable energy options. This diversified approach ensures our energy supply remains resilient and adaptable to changing circumstances, including market dynamics and environmental challenges. Investing in advanced technologies and infrastructure for energy storage and distribution enhances the reliability of renewable energy, making it a viable complement to traditional sources.

Q: How would you address population growth and housing supply and demand?

A: Addressing population growth and housing supply requires strategic infrastructure investments and comprehensive urban planning to ensure sustainable development and maintain quality of life.

First, investing in infrastructure improvements is essential to accommodate a growing population. Upgraded transportation systems, including roads, public transit and pedestrian pathways, are vital for reducing congestion and improving connectivity. Modern utilities, such as water and sewage systems, ensure reliable services and environmental sustainability. Enhanced infrastructure supports economic development by attracting businesses and creating jobs, while also making communities more livable and resilient.

Second, it is crucial to ensure that new housing developments are accompanied by adequate services, including schools, health-care facilities and recreational areas. Integrating these amenities into housing plans fosters well-rounded communities that meet residents’ needs.

School options must be accessible and of high quality to provide educational opportunities for children and attract families. Comprehensive health-care facilities, including hospitals and clinics, are essential for maintaining public health and addressing the needs of a diverse and growing population. Parks and recreational spaces promote physical and mental well-being, offering spaces for exercise, social interaction and leisure.

Moreover, coordinated urban planning ensures that services keep pace with housing development. This involves engaging with local communities and stakeholders to understand their needs and preferences and incorporating sustainable practices in planning and construction. Mixed-use developments that combine residential, commercial and recreational spaces create vibrant communities where residents can live, work and play within close proximity.

Q: What more should the state do to improve public education?

A: Improving education is a top priority. This includes defending top-heavy districts, supporting teachers and ensuring classrooms are safe and conducive to learning.

First, defunding top-heavy districts involves reallocating resources from bloated administrative structures to direct classroom support. Many school districts spend excessively on administrative costs, diverting funds away from students and teachers. By streamlining administration and reducing bureaucratic overhead, more resources can be channeled directly into educational programs, classroom materials and student support services.

Second, supporting teachers is crucial for enhancing educational outcomes. Teachers are at the frontline of education and need robust support to perform effectively. This includes competitive salaries, professional development opportunities and access to quality teaching materials. By advocating for policies that improve teacher compensation and provide ongoing training, we can attract and retain talented educators. Additionally, reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on teachers allows them to focus more on teaching and less on paperwork.

Lastly, making classrooms a safe place to learn is fundamental. This means implementing measures that address both physical and emotional safety. Schools should have clear, effective policies to prevent bullying, harassment and violence. Additionally, investing in school infrastructure to enhance safety measures, such as secure entrances and updated emergency protocols, is essential. Equally important is fostering a supportive and inclusive school environment where every student feels valued and respected. This includes promoting mental health resources and creating a culture of respect and empathy within schools.

We can significantly enhance the quality of education, preparing students for successful futures while respecting taxpayer contributions.

Q: Why should voters choose you over your opponent in this election?

A: Our government is steadily headed in the wrong direction, and it’s time we step up and elect candidates with proven leadership into the Senate. I am the candidate who will take a stand for our district and the issues we face.

This has been my home since birth, born in Sumter and raised in Kershaw County. I have served our state in many capacities. I am not a stranger to the problems we face in this district. I have worked in every county in District 35 during my career. I am a veteran of 36 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel from the South Carolina Army National Guard. I was a military police officer, and I understand the importance of law and order. I am a small business owner locally and I understand what we deal with as far as regulations and red tape. I have the education and experience it takes to lead in the Senate. I have worked with the Department of Transportation (DOT) during natural disasters, which gives me a good understanding of what it takes to rebuild and improve infrastructure growth.

I volunteer at church and in the community and will not turn my back on the citizens of District 35 once I’m in office. I will continue to be engaged in Sumter, Kershaw, Richland and Lee counties and will serve you in Senate District 35.

View my full platform at and see more information on Facebook at: Mike Jones SC Senate Seat 35.