It’s not news that North Mount Pleasant is growing by leaps and bounds. That reality was recognized by the South Carolina state legislature when its members added a new seat, District 80, to represent that part of town. The older section of Mount Pleasant, south of the IOP Connector, remains in District 110, which also includes parts of downtown Charleston, James Island and West Ashley. Despite how it’s configured, the reality is that all residents of Mount Pleasant will soon have a new face representing them in Columbia.
One of those faces could be Republican Tom Hartnett, a real estate agent and appraiser who ran for Charleston County Register of Deeds in 2018. This year, Hartnett defeated the incumbent in his party for the district 110 congressional seat. He considers himself a Christian conservative and supports the Republican Party’s goals of protecting the lives of the unborn, defending legal gun ownership, abolishing medical mandates, strengthening election laws and limiting regulations on business. Additionally, he has signed a pledge to support term limits for members of the U.S. Congress.
The candidate’s father served three terms in Washington, and Hartnett expressed that as a child, he learned a lot about the political arena firsthand. He believes that elected representatives must be accessible to their constituents and that those citizens must be heard. He believes in being a representative for all people, not only those who vote for him.
Hartnett commented, “[The rapid growth in our area] is good and brings different opinions and backgrounds, giving us a more blended society. We all have different values. We all love family and God but have a different way of raising our families and believing in God.”
Hartnett also plans to champion the Lowcountry’s share of the state budget’s infrastructure dollars to handle the growth.
“From tourism to industries, Charleston sends billions in tax revenues to Columbia, only for those dollars to be directed across the state,” Harnett said. “I will advocate for Charleston’s fair share of tax dollars to come back home so that we can address our infrastructure and flooding needs, support and protect our first responders and ensure we have a plan to manage growth responsibly.”
Hartnett’s Democratic opponent is attorney Ellis Roberts, who is throwing his hat into the political ring for the first time in 2022.
“Every day, I hear from voters who are tired of politicians who cater to the extremes of their political parties,” he explained, promising to reach across the legislature’s political divide to achieve compromise. “I believe we should put people before party. I am tired of divisive issues and unsubstantiated rhetoric stalling productivity and having a negative impact on the taxpayers right here. I know how to bridge gaps with opposing parties to get things done. I have a proven track record and have worked with everyone— democrats, republicans, independents, landowners, small business owners and corporate interests— my entire professional career. I know when to listen and when to fight for what is right.”
Like his opponent, Roberts asserted that the Lowcountry contributes way more than it receives in the state’s annual budget, and, in return, should demand to see improvements to its roads and bridges. But unlike his opponent, Roberts supports a woman’s constitutional right to choose. He is also proud to have received recognition as a “Candidate of Distinction” by Moms Demand Gun Sense. If elected, he hopes to tackle the local problems of traffic and flooding. He is also can advocate of the protection of the coastal environment, including a ban on offshore drilling.
Roberts added, “I am not in the real estate business and do not support the reckless overgrowth of our community that my opponent profits from. No special interests will have my ear.”
The District 110 race is considered one of the state’s most competitive and will ultimately be won by one of these two men. However, the newly created District 80 will be represented by a woman.
Former Mount Pleasant Town Council member Kathy Landing hopes to be that person. Landing was chair of the town’s economic development committee. She had the same role in several others, including the finance, transportation, public services and bids and purchases committees. In the past, she has served on boards of both the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. In Columbia, she wants to tackle District 80’s residential growth, infrastructure and job creation.
While on town council, Landing steered a plan to attract businesses to vacated spaces, as well as advocated for a pay raise for town employees. She touted her decades of experience in finance as an attribute.
“At the state level, a lot of money is sitting there. I’m excited to get my teeth in there, to dig into the books and see what’s going on.” she said.
Landing is a self-described “strong pro-life conservative,” and asserted that the state house is “a way we can push back against federal overreach.”
The candidate added that “one of the most devastating things we’ve seen in recent years is partisanship. I’ve worked for 37 years with people of different political and religious backgrounds without offending everybody all the time. I can work with others but will always say my piece—and I am fairly persuasive. I have to stand for something and not sway with the voices in the room.”
Landing’s opponent, Democrat Donna Brown Newton, is also a familiar face. The life-long Mount Pleasant resident has been active in community affairs since she was a teenager, participating in the historic 1969 local hospital workers’ strike for equal pay. The issue of a living wage for all is still one that drives Newton, who places that and affordable health care as top priorities.
“There aren’t a lot of families getting public assistance in District 80; however, there are those that fall through the cracks and do not qualify for government aid but don’t make enough to cover anything beyond basic housing expenses.” Newton said.
Newton contends that expanding Medicaid would help those families caught in between.
She added, “I believe everyone in District 80 wants affordable health care for its residents. We can find a way to put that in the budget and stop focusing on issues that don’t need to be fought. We just have to shift some things around and make it a priority.”
Newton also supports a $15 minimum wage and stated that increasing it would help businesses, too, by increasing consumer spending.
“If you have more money in your pocket, you can spend more money and stimulate the economy,” she offered.
Nelson asserted that her decades of experience serving on the county’s Disabilities Board, Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee and Snowden Community Civic Association Board—and her career in the county school district offices of special education– have given her insight into many facets of public service that will benefit her constituents.
It’s been said that all politics are local. There are innumerable interpretations of this phrase, but one that may apply to the upcoming elections: these local candidates vow to bring local issues to the state capitol.
By Mary Coy