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Politics: House candidate hires former GOP chairman to run campaign

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Stephen Goldfinch, a Murrells Inlet attorney, made his plans to run as a Republican for state House District 108 official this week.

And he has the former county GOP chairman, Tom Swatzel, on his side, something some speculate could give him an edge in what is likely to be a crowded field.

Swatzel stood behind Goldfinch, 28, with a crowd of supporters during a press conference at Inlet Affairs on Wednesday as Goldfinch talked about his background and his reasons for running.

“I believe I can make a difference and in a way ‘pay back’ the many opportunities I have been afforded,” Goldfinch said. “We must turn the state of our state around. We face challenges and issues as a state that we must address to begin to move forward.”

He specifically named issues including “jobs, government over-regulation, an education system that is at best struggling to teach our children, a tax structure that is a detriment to private sector job creation” and “a government badly in need of streamlining.”

Swatzel stepped down from his position with the party in April after finishing his second term as chairman and launched Swatzel Strategies, a campaign, issue advocacy, and public and media relations consulting firm. During his tenure as chairman, he made getting a Republican elected in District 108 a priority for the party and is largely credited with the election of Kevin Ryan in 2010 over a 14-year Democratic incumbent, Vida Miller.

Ryan said he has no doubt Goldfinch will gain an advantage from having Swatzel at his side.

“Tom is obviously very familiar with the district and what he did with my campaign was obviously successful,” said Ryan, who announced last month that he won’t seek a second term.

Ryan said he worked closely with Swatzel on his campaign. Like Goldfinch, he announced his candidacy in October the year before the election. He started seriously campaigning in January.

“He pushed me to work very hard and make a lot of contact with voters,” Ryan said of Swatzel. “I think he’ll do the same with Stephen and Stephen will benefit from that. Tom knows the ins and outs of politics here.”

Early last month, Goldfinch, who is also a private pilot, was a candidate for a position on the S.C. Aeronautics Commission, but he withdrew saying another applicant was better suited. A couple of weeks later, Republican officials said he was considering a run for District 108 and had signed Swatzel as his consultant, but Goldfinch stayed mum until the press conference.

He is the second candidate to announce his plans officially, but the first to hold a public event.

Randy Hollister, 58, a partner in a commercial and investment real estate brokerage in the Pawleys Island area, quietly confirmed his plans to run earlier this month.

He approached Swatzel about consulting for his campaign, but was told he was already representing another candidate.

Hollister doesn’t expect he’ll be hurt any by not having Swatzel on his team. He has already been getting some campaign advice and is in discussion with two consultants, though he’s not ready to say more about that area of his campaign.

“Certainly Tom’s local knowledge of the GOP and the campaigns he’s been involved with give him a perspective that will be very valuable,” Hollister said. “But there are a lot of ways to deal with campaigns, particularly in a race like the House of Representatives, which is not a high profile race. I’m pretty confident I can come up with one that lets voters in the 108th district know who I am and why I’m the best choice.”

Alan Walters, a Georgetown County magistrate, David DuRant, attorney for the town of Pawleys Island, and Thomas Winslow, a Georgetown attorney, have also said they are considering a run for the district.

Walters will have to resign his position if he elects to run. Asked if he thinks Swatzel will impact the race, he said he has an opinion, but doesn’t want to get politically involved at this point by commenting.

DuRant is “leaning toward running,” he said, but has “a couple of personal issues” to resolve before he says for sure. He called Goldfinch and Swatzel “fine fellas.”

“I expected there would be competition and it doesn’t bother me,” DuRant said.

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