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House District 108: Parties trade barbs over GOP attack ads

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

With just over one month until Election Day, the Georgetown County Republican Party is ramping up its efforts to gain control of House District 108.

Two mailers it sent out in the last week criticize incumbent Rep. Vida Miller’s actions in office, accusing her of not standing up for the views and the best interests of her constituents.

Neither piece makes any mention of the party’s own candidate, Kevin Ryan.

Such action from the GOP wasn’t unexpected, county Democrats said, but it rubbed many the wrong way. It’s a perfect example of the kind of negative campaigning they’ve come to expect from local Republicans, they said, and is designed to detract attention from the most important issues in the county, such as jobs, education and health care.

“Every election cycle is worse than the last with the stretching of facts, half-truths and the fear mongering,” said Nancy Kolman, the county Democratic Party chairwoman. “Spreading fear and hate among our neighbors is not on the Democratic agenda.”

The information on the mailers is important and relevant to voters, said Tom Swatzel, the county GOP chairman.

One mailer proclaims that 77 percent of Georgetown County voters supported an amendment in 2006 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, but Miller did not, abstaining from two votes regarding the amendment.

A radio ad the party ran in 2008 delivered a similar message. Swatzel said the party opted for a mailer this time to more carefully target voters.

Voters need to be aware of Miller’s voting record, he said.

“Those voters deserve a state legislator they can trust to represent their values in Columbia, especially when the state marriage amendment remains in danger of being invalidated by federal judges,” he said.

A federal judge ruled last month that a similar voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage in California was unconstitutional.

Ryan didn’t know anything about plans for the mailer he said.

“I was just as surprised to get it in the mail as anybody else,” Ryan said. “The party sent that out and, though I’m on the executive committee, I can’t be involved in any decision they make about anything regarding the election.”

But Ryan said he supports the party’s actions.

“I think the mailer brings up an important issue,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what Vida’s opinion or my personal opinion is,” he said. “If a clearly overwhelming majority supports something, it’s the job of a representative to represent those opinions.”

Ryan agrees the marriage issue is still “very much an important one,” he said.

A second mailer that went out Tuesday criticizes Miller for statements she made between October 2002 and January 2009 about the need to raise the gas tax, which hasn’t been increased in more than 20 years.

An increase in the gas tax “doesn’t mean you’re going to pay more at the pump,” but that more money will go to local road projects, Miller said in a previous interview.

Of the mailers, “all I’m going to say on both these attacks is that we are running a clean campaign,” Miller said Wednesday. “We have always run clean campaigns — I have more respect for the constituents and the people I serve than to run these negative, name-calling type attack ads.

“Our campaign will be based on the facts, and if anyone at any time wants to call me and discuss [issues] with me, I’m happy to talk to them,” she added.

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