The two candidates running to represent Aiken City Council District 1 sparred lightly and fielded bunches of questions Tuesday night during a sometimes freewheeling, often boisterous and jam-packed public forum in Crosland Park.
Most audience inquiries – sometimes just shy of interrogations – were aimed at Jeremy Stevens, a Republican political newcomer. Stevens was repeatedly asked about his social media presence and his qualifications and for reasons why District 1 voters should support him.
Stevens, an Air Force veteran, pitched himself as a fresh set of eyes and ears, a conservative who would ask different, and more, questions.
"A lot of the stuff the City Council is doing is great. I just think that it's time for a new voice, a new ear and a new shoulder for people to lean on," Stevens said in his opening statement, adding that he's "big into" term limits.
The look for tonight’s Aiken City Council District 1 “Candidate Forum” in Crosland Park.— Colin Demarest (@demarest_colin) October 22, 2019
Incumbent Gail Diggs (D) is pictured top left hunched over. Challenger Jeremy Stevens (R) is to the right in the brown coat. They’re the only two to file.@aikenstandard #sctweets pic.twitter.com/INiHJMevoT
City Council member Gail Diggs, the incumbent Democrat, faced far less questioning, and far less aggressive questioning, Tuesday night. Her opening statement was considerably longer, as well.
"This election is critical for all of our citizens," Diggs said, "but I would be remiss if I didn't emphasize the impact that it will have on the Northside of town."
Diggs more than once reminded the crowd of her ties to Crosland Park – she lived there at one point – and of her work with the community.
Some audience members during the quasi-debate accused Stevens of not showing his face enough.
"I don't know what Crosland needs, I don't know what Gatewood needs, I don't know what Fox Haven needs," Stevens said, rattling off neighborhoods. "I won't know that until people speak it to me. And once they speak it to me, then we can take it and make proper questions and make proper growth for the future."
He later added: "I don't know the game of it, and I don't like the game of it that I do think that it is. And I don't want to just be somewhere so that you vote for me."
The city's first district is largely on the Northside. The district's southern tail, though, stretches beyond Park Avenue.
The event Tuesday night comes two weeks before the Aiken general election. In that election, two City Council members – one for District 1 and one for District 3 – and a mayor will be chosen.
Diggs and Stevens were the only two candidates to file for the District 1 seat.
Diggs was elected to City Council in 2011.