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State House: Kelso won't challenge Miller

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Just a day after U.S. Rep. Henry Brown surprised Republicans with news that he won’t seek re-election, Jill Kelso sent them reeling again.

Kelso won’t be a candidate in this year’s race for S.C. House District 108, she announced Tuesday, citing a need to focus her attention on her children and her business.

“I consider seeking and holding public office the very highest honor,” Kelso said. “Our citizens deserve a representative who can devote his or her undivided attention to matters of state. While my heart says this would be our year, I must keep my priorities in order, and changes in my family and business interests require that I focus my attention on both.”

Kelso, 33, of Murrells Inlet, is a mother of two young girls, Molly, 6, and Emily, 4. She owns and operates Smart Saver Coupons.

Though filing doesn’t open until March, Kelso started planning a second run for District 108 after losing a challenge to the Democratic incumbent, Vida Miller, in 2008.

With heavy support from the Georgetown County Republican Party, Kelso very nearly won Georgetown County, though she was brand new to the political arena. Miller won her seventh term by only 252 votes in Georgetown County, but had 1,720 votes to Kelso’s 764 in Charleston County.

Kelso was to take on 21-year-old Clemson University student Kevin Ryan in the June Republican primary for the chance to go up against Miller again.

“I really thought it was going to be something I could do,” Kelso said of her planned run for office. “I was planning for 2010 and working with a consultant. We were moving forward, just like everything was going to happen, but looking at the past year, at where my business is and where my girls are, I just decided this is not the right time.

“I’m one of those people who have to give 100 percent when I do something. I can’t do it halfway and right now my 100 percent has to be with my children and my business.”

While campaigning in 2008, Kelso assured voters she was up for the challenge of balancing the duties of a state representative with those of a mom and a businesswoman.

Had she been elected, she said she would have seen her term through, and she’s confident she would have done a good job.

“But that’s not the way it worked out,” she said.

Kelso said she “grappled” with her decision to withdraw from the race for nearly six months.

“There were an awful lot of people who worked very hard along with me, and I didn’t want to let them down; but, they know me well enough to know my children are the most important thing to me, and they have to come first.”

Taking control of District 108 has been a priority for the Georgetown County Republican Party for years.

Tom Swatzel, the county party chairman, said he is disappointed Kelso is no longer in the running but is optimistic about the GOP’s chances of getting a Republican into that seat this year.

“We wish Jill was still in the race, because she is a formidable candidate. However, Kevin Ryan is a young and energetic conservative who can win this state House seat, especially with the high Republican and low Democrat voter turnout predicted for the elections in November,” Swatzel said. “There is also the strong possibility of additional Republicans filing for the seat.

“It looks like Rep. Miller and other Democrats are going to face the perfect storm in November of highly motivated conservative Republican and independent voters who are appalled at the reckless spending and health care boondoggle in Washington, and unmotivated Democrats,” Swatzel added.

The county party will continue its campaign to “make voters aware of Rep. Miller’s very liberal voting record in Columbia and her unwavering support for the Obama administration.” Before the 2008 election, the county GOP hit Miller hard in a series of e-mails, fliers and radio advertisements, criticizing her voting record, campaign contributions and other actions.

Though her name won’t be on the ballot this year, Kelso said she will remain active in politics and might run for office again in the future.

Kelso serves on the executive committees of the county and state Republican parties and on the committee that oversees the evaluator of the state’s First Steps program. She will continue in those roles and be active in Republican campaigns, particularly that of the Republican nominee for House District 108.

“I really think there are an awful lot of important races in 2010, and I plan on jumping in with both feet to help other candidates,” she said.

“While my personal situation does not permit me to run for public office at this time, I am committed to being a force for positive change here in South Carolina and across this country.”

She said she hopes to encourage other conservatives to run for House District 108 and “will do everything in my power to help the best candidate win in November.”

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