As of Friday afternoon, two people have filed for the vacant Aiken City Council seat.
Most recently, Randy Ra Shad Gaines filed as a Democrat last week. Philip Merry, who announced his intent to run in November, filed as a Republican.
The seat was vacated by Don Wells, who is now serving as the District 81 Representative for the State House. Filing for Wells’ old seat opened on Nov. 30.
The seat is at-large but will expire in November, and the position will become a single-member district when the city’s new 6-1 district map is implemented.
Gaines, 27, is a native of Aiken who said he doesn’t live in what will soon be District 6, but he wants to take advantage of the opportunity to give back to his community as well as learn more about the political process.
“I love Aiken. I was born and raised here,” Gaines said. “It’s only six months, but it’s the least I could do.”
Gaines went to South Aiken High School where he was very involved in student activities. He was part of the academic team, concert choir, the step team and the drama club. He was also the FBLA president, an athletic manager for men’s and women’s basketball as well as other sports and the school mascot.
Gaines later went to Voorhees College and transferred to USC in Columbia, where he studied sports and entertainment management. He was also highly involved at USC acting as the senator of student government and president of the Association of African-American Students, just to name a few.
Gaines said he never thought he’d be involved in politics but has gained a passion for it over the years. Most recently, he was a field organizer with Organizing For America in Florida for the 2012 Obama/Biden Campaign. He was also an Aiken County delegate for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. He served as president of the S.C. Young Democrats from 2007 to 2011.
Gaines has been the owner of The Letter R, a political strategy and business development company since 2009.
Gaines said he’s young and doesn’t have all the answers, but he feels he could add a fresh perspective to Council, and if elected, he said in those few months, he feels he can influence the younger residents to get more involved in their own city.
“You don’t have to be a lawyer to know the difference between right and wrong,” Gaines said. “Aiken is run pretty good for a small city. I don’t think (Council is) doing a bad job, but sometimes, we just need a fresh prospective.”
Merry, a 10-year veteran of the Design Review Board, is also running for the seat. Merry, an Aiken native, currently lives in what will be District 6.
Merry is a graduate of Wofford College with a degree in business and economics. He worked for an insurance business in Greer for about two years before returning to Aiken and currently works at Hutson-Etherredge Companies, a local insurance business established in 1876. Merry has also ran his own residential construction business, Merry Custom Homes, since 2006.
Merry and his wife, Amy, have two children.
For more about Merry, visit www.aikenstandard.com to read the Nov. 27 article regarding his announcement to run.
Filing for nomination by petitions and entry of candidates for primaries closes at noon today. If primaries are necessary, they will be held Jan. 22.
The last day to file as a petition candidate will be Jan. 11 at noon. The special election will be held March 12.
Democratic candidates are asked to file at 225 Chesterfield St. N. For more information, call 644-5335.
Republican candidates will file at 127 Greenville St. S.W. For more information, call 648-5626.
Anyone living in the city can run for the at-large seat, but it will be on the ballot as District 6 in November 2013.
To see if you reside in the newly-formed district, the map is available at www.cityofaikensc.gov.