Despite months of election litigation involving dozens of state and local seats and hundred of candidates, it appears as if many Aiken County voters in S.C. Senate District 26 will have a choice between two candidates.
Both incumbent Democrat Nikki Setzler and Republican candidate Deedee Vaughters, who said she aligns herself with the GOP, will be on the Nov. 6 ballot for the district that spans portions of Aiken, Calhoun, Lexington and Saluda counties. Redistricting last year has further extended the district that was once mostly in the Wagner-Salley area into a larger portion of Aiken County that now snakes its way into parts of downtown Aiken.
Setzler, who has held the seat since he was first elected in 1976, said that, during his first eight years in office, all of Aiken County was a part of his district.
The Asheville, N.C., native was born in 1945 and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Juris Doctorate at the University of South Carolina.
In addition to serving in the Senate, Setzler has chaired the Senate Education Committee from 1998 until 2000. He was also a Cayce City Judge from 1974 until 1976 and has served as an attorney in Springdale and West Columbia.
Setzler is a founding partner of Setzler & Scott, P.A., is a father of four children and married to Ada Jane.
Setzler said his priority is jobs, citing his efforts to bring Amazon to the Palmetto State and the 2,000-plus jobs the company has promised to move to the state by the end of next year.
“I worked with Bridgestone there (in Aiken) and was a part of the biggest private investment that we have brought to the state,” he said.
In September 2011, Bridgestone announced the construction of a new 1.5 million-square-foot facility in Aiken County and its $1.2 billion investment that, once completed, will increase Bridgestone Americas' workforce in Aiken County by more than 850 full-time and contract positions.
Setzler said his experience sets him apart from his Republican challenger.
When asked if he would discuss some of the issues that Vaughters has brought up about his voting record, the incumbent said he is not running a race where he is responsible to respond to any one person, adding that voters are tired of gridlock.
Despite allegations to the contrary from Vaughters, Setzler said he has been a part of reforming state government, saying that he has worked hard on restructuring the state pension system that the Post and Courier reported as struggling under a widening $13 billion shortfall.
“I will continue to reform the state government, continue what we've done,” he said “We created the office of Inspector General…”
But, Vaughters argues that those reforms don't go far enough, calling for sweeping changes.
“They've been up there so long,” she said. “It's time for a change.”
Vaughters, a University of South Carolina graduate, who is a partner in her husband's private medical practice and owner of 1-800 GOT-JUNK franchise, is the mother of three and married to Bauer.
She has been a member of the S.C. Policy Council, which she describes as being a watchdog nonprofit to pull back the curtain on politics in the legislature.
She said taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going.
Three pots of money make up the state's budget – the general fund, which is mainly income and retail sales tax money; the federal fund and the other fund.
“Yes, the other fund,” she said, adding that Setzler co-chairs the Joint Other Funds Oversight committee, which is not subject to spending caps.
The federal fund is comprised of fees and fines.
Last year, the “other fund” was $8.1 billion.
The general fund was $5.7 billion, Vaughters said.
Vaughters said there needs to be oversight on the fund, while calling for a shortened legislative session.
At 72 days in a year, she said the state has one of the longest legislation sessions in the country.
Other issues Vaughters tackles is a call for an end to health insurance and retirement benefits for legislators and mandatory financial disclosures by elected officials.
“Financial disclosures will allow constituents to understand why and how their legislators present and support certain legislation,” she said.
Aiken Standard held an editorial board meeting with Vaughters last week and will meet with the incumbent Senator early next week to follow up with additional platform information and specific issues.