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 bradwarthen.com. 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.