Here's what S.C. Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly had to say about the Aiken County party's selection of new officers last Saturday – Chairman Diane Barnes and Vice Chairman Clayton Clarkson.


“To those who say the Republican Party is the party of old white men, look at the diverse group elected nearly unanimously,” Connelly said in a statement.


Barnes, who served as vice chairman the past two years, defeated Tony Caffaro handily for the chairmanship. She said she's the first Hispanic chairman of the Aiken County party.


Clarkson attends USC Aiken as a political science major. K.T. Ruthven will return as the executive committeeman, completing what Connelly said is the youngest group of county party officers in the state.


“It's wonderful to look at all the opportunities,” said Barnes. “Our party is growing and transitioning to strengthen the party, with the continued support of our current members.”


Ruthven is delighted that the party is giving Clarkson the chance to get more involved. They worked together on the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket – which captured the state by a margin of more than 10 percent.


“We're also excited to have Diane on board,” Ruthven said. “She's youthful and full of energy with a lot of different experiences. She will be a dynamic leader.”


At USCA, Clarkson met Dennis Saylor's son Scott, who also cited the value political involvement. After working at the precinct level, Clarkson joined the Herman Cain presidential campaign until the candidate withdrew. He's been active with the local party ever since. Barnes and Ruthven were pleased that Clarkson brought about 12 USCA friends to the convention Saturday.


“It's exciting to be a part of the next generation of Republicans and build a real foundation,” Clarkson said.


Barnes was active in Texas politics before she and her familiy moved to Aiken in 2009. The following year, she worked on Bill Taylor's successful bid to get a first term in the S.C. House of Representatives.


Barnes acknowledges that as one of her priorities, “I would like to see us unite the party. Growing the party has to start at the local level.”