Dr. Elise Fox, a scientist-turned-candidate, is running for the S.C. House of Representatives seat currently held by Rep. Bart Blackwell, R-Aiken.
She has said she's running on a platform that welcomes transparency and encourages open-door policies. On Dec. 7, during her fourth "Coffee with the Candidate" forum, Fox further detailed her platform, something she titled "the Four E's": ethics, economy, environment and education, with the stress on education.
"All of them really center on it," she said.
Fox, who is Aiken born and raised, said the current education situation in South Carolina "really should be criminal" and said the state slogan of a minimally adequate education is despicable.
"I hate that term," Fox said. "That term should not exist. There should be no such thing."
Fox, a Democrat, said something has to be done to make education equitable across the state – and that, she said, is one of the many reasons why she chose to run.
Her impassioned stance on education stems from two sources: her twins' future and the infamous 58-minute "Corridor of Shame" documentary that shed light on education disparities across the the state's most rural counties.
"It was disturbing to me because I went to a public school, and I love that public school," Fox said. "I see these kids who are going to a school with the roof caving in, they can't keep teachers because they're not even paying the teachers a livable wage, and it's obvious something has happened, and children are being left behind."
Fox said kindergarten through 12th grade education is a major sticking point for her. She said she wants to fight what she sees as the state's "mind boggling" poverty cycle, creeping illiteracy, growing under-preparedness and lack of workforce development.
"If you don't graduate high school with the basic requirements to read and work as an adult, that's on our hands," she said. "Everyone deserves to properly work when they get out of high school … Early education is huge."
To enable proper K-12 education, Fox said she'll pursue equitable funding across the entire state. That includes paying teachers evenhandedly, she said: "They deserve a good and fair salary."
Fox, who has a long-running background in chemistry and material science, is a political rookie. She has no true campaign experience.
What she does have, though, is leadership experience.
Fox currently serves as the chairwoman of the South Carolina Biomass Council, sits on the board of directors for the South Carolina Solar Council and is an executive member of the American Chemical Society's Committee for Environmental Improvement. The ACS has more than 160,000 members.
Fox said she took her first step into "the policy arena" with the ACS. She said she was surprised by how much she liked it.
Combine that with what she called the Legislature continually "kicking the can down the road," she said, and you get a candidate.
"If nothing else, I'm good at getting things done. I'm not afraid to do the hard work our legislators are afraid to do," Fox said. "Vote for me."