Filing for a vacant Aiken City Council seat closed Monday afternoon, and only two candidates are running.
Philip Merry was the first to file, and he did so as a Republican. His opponent, Randy Ra Shad Gaines, filed as a Democrat last week.
The two candidates are hoping to fill the seat 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. Aiken County Republican Party Chairman Dennis Saylor said he wasn’t too surprised that not many people filed for it because they would have to go through the process all over again in just a few months after the special election.
The seat is currently 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.
That didn’t deter Gaines or Merry. Gaines, 27, doesn’t live in what will be District 6 come November, which means if he wins, he will not be eligible to run for the position again after the at-large seat expires. He said that doesn’t bother him because he simply wants the opportunity to give back to his community, learn more about the political process and make City Council more approachable to Aiken’s younger residents.
Merry, a 10-year veteran of the Design Review Board, lives in District 6 and hopes to help the city attract more business while maintaining its rich history and character. He said he wants his two children to have the opportunities available to them to stay in Aiken when they grow up and pursue a career of their own.
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 been running his own residential construction business, Merry Custom Homes, since 2006.
Gaines studied sports and entertainment management at USC in Columbia and has been highly involved in local and state politics. 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 owned The Letter R, a political strategy and business development company, since 2009.
Petition candidates have until Jan. 11 at noon to file.
The special election will be held March 12.
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