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Politics: Goldfinch piles up endorsements and money in District 108

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

With a week before filing opens to appear on the June primary election ballot, most voters probably can’t even remember the names of all the Republican candidates who have said they will sign on officially for the 7th Congressional District race.

At last count there were nine.

But when it comes to S.C. House District 108, there’s just one name members of the GOP need to know: Stephen Goldfinch.

The 29-year-old Murrells Inlet attorney announced his campaign in October and has since been piling up endorsements and campaign contributions. His only opponent for the primary, Randy Hollister, withdrew last month, saying he had determined the race would take more time and effort than he could commit. A number of others who initially expressed interest in the seat haven’t followed through with announcements — at least so far.

Only time will tell, but it looks like the path is clear for Goldfinch to get his name on the November ballot.

If an opponent does materialize in time for the primary, Goldfinch promises he or she will have a battle on their hands.

“I’m working harder for this than I think anybody else is going to want to work,” he said.

Every day he’s having breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings (or some combination thereof) and every night there’s a party or some other type of campaign function to go to.

“It’s a lot,” said Goldfinch, who has never run for office before. But “I don’t know if I’d call it work. It’s more like socializing on steroids is what it is. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it’s good for my personality. I like being out and talking to people and trying to solve problems.”

It has certainly been enlightening, he added.

“Hundreds of people have told me about their problems and concerns, and what they would like to see fixed in Georgetown County,” Goldfinch said. “It brings me up to speed on what the actual problems are. I knew what my problems were and what my friends’ problems were, but I’m hearing about problems now I didn’t know were out there. It’s more than just the port in Georgetown or the widening of a highway and the things you usually hear about.”

One new issue brought to his attention is the need for a law requiring seafood restaurants to be honest about what they’re serving. Goldfinch was told by people in the seafood industry that it’s common for some restaurants to list items on their menu as one thing, but actually serve a less expensive, lower quality item. People ordering scallops might be getting something they normally wouldn’t touch and those who think they’re getting grouper might really be eating Indonesian catfish, Goldfinch said.

“There’s no law that says they can’t do that,” he explained. And as a result, local fishermen are being hurt as restaurants buy cheaper seafood from overseas and advertise it as something local.

“That’s the kind of stuff that really hits home and affects small businesses here in Georgetown County, and it’s the type of stuff we can do something about today,” Goldfinch said. “It’s encouraging to me, because that’s stuff that can be fixed.”

Because of the effort he’s been putting in from the beginning, Goldfinch said his campaign wasn’t affected when Hollister dropped out. He’s going to run for office like the race is neck and neck regardless.

“Even if nobody announces for the primary, I’m still going to run like that,” he said. “In fact, I think I’ve ramped things up even farther in the last few weeks. I’m really trying to put my best foot forward.”

For his trouble, Goldfinch has picked up endorsements from folks including Jerry Rovner, president of the largest Republican group in Georgetown County, Georgetown City Council Member, Paige Sawyer, and former seven-term state Rep. Tom Marchant. More are on the way.

In his most recent campaign disclosure filing, Goldfinch reported total contributions of $15,260 including a $6,500 loan. That was in January. His contributions now total over $25,000, he said.

By comparison, S.C. Rep. Kevin Ryan, who won the seat in 2010 and isn’t seeking re-election, reported $1,300 in contributions at about the same point in his campaign. That included $500 in personal funds.

Ryan’s Democratic opponent, Vida Miller, who held the seat for 14 years, had $14,550 in contributions at the same point in 2010 and just over $18,700 on hand.

“Fundraising is always a challenge, but especially now, because of the new 7th District and all the state races and the presidential race,” Goldfinch said. “You go to ask somebody for money and they say, ‘I just mailed a check to this campaign or that campaign.’ ”

But supporters have been as generous as possible.

“We’ve gotten a lot of $5, $10, $20 checks, which is good,” Goldfinch said. “I’d much prefer to have 100 $10 checks than 10 $100 checks any day, because that’s votes. As long as I’m connecting with voters, reaching people and shaking their hand, that’s what’s important.”

He has picked up some larger contributions, though: $1,000 each from two Horry county attorneys and Atlantic Ventures in Murrells Inlet, and $750 from a Murrells Inlet restaurant owner.

Goldfinch said he has been talking with Ryan in an effort to get himself prepared for the job he hopes to take on.

“We’ve been talking about the struggles he’s gone through and what he dealt with. That’s been helpful to me in figuring out what to expect,” Goldfinch said.

Ryan, who was 22 when elected, received some skepticism about his ability to do the job at such a young age. Though Goldfinch is also significantly younger than most of those he hopes to serve with in the House, he said he thinks he’ll have an easier time of it than Ryan.

Members of the county legislative delegation “didn’t seem to take him seriously,” Goldfinch said of Ryan. “To his credit, he’s done a lot of things, introduced a lot of bills and been on the right side of the issues. But they’ve got this perception of a young guy. I don’t think that will be the case with me.”

Goldfinch, whose family has a long history of public service, already knows a lot of the people in the General Assembly, including the members of the Georgetown, Horry and Charleston county delegations.

“I’ve gone to lunch and dinner with these guys. I know their families. I’m not going to be looked at as an outsider. That was kind of Kevin’s downfall. He was viewed as a young outsider who wanted to change things and they didn’t like that.”

Assuming it’s smooth sailing for Goldfinch in the primary and he makes it onto the November ballot, he’ll face a Democratic opponent there. Jarrod Ownbey, 32, of Ricefields, also an attorney, announced his campaign about a month after Goldfinch. It looks like he might also be unopposed in the primary. He has not filed a campaign finance report.

Goldfinch said he’s not concerned with what Ownbey is up to, specifying that has nothing to do with Ownbey or his policies.

“The way I look at it, I’m not concerned about any opponent,” Goldfinch said. “I’m going to run the best campaign I can run and my neighbors, my friends and the communities of Georgetown County will have to decide who they like best. I’ll be honest, do the best I can, and if they like me, they’ll elect me. I think they’ll like what I have to say.”

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