Young lawyers vie for Kit Smith’s council seat

Scott Winburn

Quick, what do Seth Rose and Scott Winburn have in common that makes them both look like smart, capable candidates?

Yes! They both advertise on That, of course, should be all you need to know, but then, how could you choose between them?

What else do they have in common? Well, they’re both young lawyers who happen to be Democrats. I interviewed each of them over breakfast this week. And both of them are running for the 5th District Richland County Council seat being vacated by Kit Smith.

They are not the only candidates running in the Democratic primary for that seat (which by the way IS the election, since no Republicans are seeking it). Moe Baddourah and Kayin Jones are also on the ballot, and Mr. Baddourah has some catchy signs you may have seen around town. For all I know, one of them could end up in a runoff, but without any polling or anything else to go on, my sense is that most of the energy in this contest belongs to Rose and Winburn (a Free Times piece this week on the back-and-forth between Rose and Winburn didn’t even mention the other two candidates).

So, what separates the two candidates? Quite a bit, actually. For instance:

  • The Kit Smith factor… Rose started running for this seat before Kit Smith said she was ready to vacate it. Why? Because, he says, he didn’t think she was visible enough in the community. He says his model for a good council member is his city council rep, Belinda Gergel — whom he says he sees everywhere at community functions. By contrast, Winburn — who didn’t announce until Mrs. Smith decided not to seek re-election — has her endorsement.
  • Last time I looked, Seth seemed to have a lot more yard signs than Scott. That could be because he’s raised a good bit more money.
  • Scott may not be old Columbia, but he’s old South Carolina. My uncle knows his mama and daddy up in my hometown of Bennettsville. In fact, my uncle called me last weekend to tell me to expect a call from Scott. (Initially, Scott had wanted to talk to me to get advice on how to get The State’s endorsement. I had to break it to him that The State wouldn’t be endorsing in his race. The overworked remnants of an editorial board are only endorsing for governor, attorney general and solicitor.) To cite another connection I have to him: My uncle serves on the board that supervises Scott’s father, who is Director of Disabilities and Special Needs for Marlboro County.
  • By contrast, Seth never knew his father, and his mom was 18 when she had him. He was born in West Virginia and raised in Florida by his mom and aunt. His grandfather was in a pipefitter and a union man, which Seth credits with helping start him down the path to being a Democrat. He also credits his background with having instilled in him a strong work ethic.
  • Seth went to USC on a tennis scholarship, and he made All-American. Scott went to Clemson, like fellow Bennettsville Democrat Doug Jennings.
  • Since I mentioned that I have indirect personal connections to Scott, I should mention that Seth is in my Rotary Club, and like him, my Dad went to a South Carolin college on a tennis scholarship (Presbyterian College). Dad still follows SC tennis, and when he saw his yard signs recently, asked, me, “Isn’t he the tennis player?”
  • Scott is in private practice with Rep. James Smith. Seth is a prosecutor in the 5th Circuit solicitor’s office.
  • Winburn claims the support of both Smiths (James and Kit), as well as former Gov. Jim Hodges and such conservation activists as Ann Timberlake. (He has in the past worked for Hodges and the Coastal Conservation League, and clerked for Ed Cottingham.) In contrast to that constellation of white Democrats, Rose cites the backing of Todd Rutherford, Chris Hart, Vince Ford and I.S. Leevy Johnson. I’m not saying there’s a racial thing going on, but it did strike me that there was that contrast among the first names each cited when I asked who was supporting them.

As for the “issue” that has emerged between the two… Winburn supporters have accused Rose of the “Don Tomlin candidate” because the developer has given his campaign $1,000. This, of course, is muttered darkly by the conservation-minded folk who back Winburn and have long supported Kit Smith. Rose indicates this all took him by surprise. First, he doesn’t personally know Don Tomlin. Then, once the name came up, he did a little research and found that Mr. Tomlin has given to other Democrats as well — including James Smith and Kit Smith, in 2006.

As an issue, that sounds kind of like a wash to me. I see no indication that Rose is another Brian Boyer. Mr. Boyer, if you’ll recall, was the young veteran who actually was in Tomlin’s employ when he ran against Belinda Gergel in 2008. By contrast, Rose is a great admirer of Mrs. Gergel, the historic preservationist. He also says he has worked to obtain limits on development in his community.

So I think those of you who live in Richland County’s 5th District will have to make your decision on the basis of something else. Check out their websites, which are linked from their ads, and from the first reference to their names above.

Seth Rose

4 thoughts on “Young lawyers vie for Kit Smith’s council seat

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Seth has impressed me with his “boots on the ground” approach to campaigning. He has knocked on doors, including mine twice, come to our neighborhood meeting twice months ago, and generally been an eager beaver.

    Scott Winburn has the endorsement of our President emeritus, Professor John Stucker, who is a poli-sci prof and former Democratic operative. I respect his opinion.

    I suspect we couldn’t go wrong with either of them.

  2. Lynn

    Having spoken with Seth Rose several times in past months, I had told him he had my support. A couple of weeks ago I heard about developer donations to Seth Rose’s campaign. I am very concerned about environmental and neighborhood issues, so this caused concern. I checked the SC Ethics site to verify the donations, and I confirmed that Tomlin, the Realtors’ Association, and others had made substantial donations. So, I emailed Seth. He called the next day and we talked for 45 minutes. I asked him questions about specific environmental and neighborhood issues, from Shandon neighborhood protections to stream buffers. He gave very reasonable answers to all my questions, answers consistent with support for responsible environmental protections and sound planning for development inside and outside established neighborhoods.

    We never know what someone will really do until they are in office, but Seth’s stated positions on environmental and neighborhood issues gave me no cause for alarm. He is energetic and clearly committed to serving on Council. I’ve also spoken with Scott Winburn. He too impressed me as a concerned and intelligent individual who would make excellent contributions. His history with environmental issues is very solid.

    I think Kathryn is probably right. We are lucky to have these two people interested in the Council position. It’s too bad we can’t have them both serve. As to why Mr. Tomlin chose to support Seth Rose before Kit Smith had announced her retirement — I don’t know Tomlin, but it is possible that this has more to do with his being against Ms. Smith than his being for Seth Rose. A quick web search of his name brought up an interview in which he mentioned having a personal list of 20 people he thought the area would be better off without; I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Smith was among them.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Don Tomlin supported Tameika in her first run, and she did favor him in one matter, we believe (700 Pickens)–otherwise, she has hardly been his or his cronies’ pawn.

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