Those hoping to succeed state Rep. Ronnie Young in Columbia gathered Thursday in Warrenville for the first political forum of this special election cycle, answering a spate of questions and broadly relating themselves to the conservative movement at the federal level.

All six candidates – Melissa Oremus, Cody Anderson, Alvin Padgett, Ralph Gunter, Sean Pumphrey and Danny Feagin – seeking the S.C. House District 84 seat participated in "The Debate," an event hosted by strategist Colen Lindell in partnership with the Aiken County Republican Party.

The first batch of questions focused on education: debt, improving performance, supporting teachers and empowering students outside the classroom.

"Education reform is a big part of our platform," Anderson said, adding, "We need to make sure that these teachers have everything that they need."

Oremus advocated for both better pay and general education upgrades.

"So, right on to the teachers," she said. "Keep fighting the good fight, because we've got to get some change."

Pumphrey emphasized school safety. Gunter said education is a topic everyone – not just politicians – has to work on.

Who are you voting for in the House 84 race?

The S.C. House District 84 primary election will take place July 30. There are six Republican candidates in the running.

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The second batch of questions focused on economic development, a repeat highlight of candidate announcements made earlier this year.

Padgett, a small business owner himself, said redeveloping the district depends on small business success.

"If we can buy local, and we can help our community, that will be more opportunities for us," he said.

Feagin, an Aiken County Council member, discussed the importance of infrastructure and internet access, among other things.

"If you have this in the right location, businesses will come," Feagin said. He voiced concerns about food deserts – a distinct lack of local grocery stores that other candidates on stage also condemned.

District 84 is a swath of land between Aiken and eastern North Augusta, stretching south past Jackson. Parts of the district are colloquially referred to as "The Valley."

The House seat is vacant following Young's death in May. Young, a Clearwater Republican, was a longtime Aiken County Council leader prior to his state election.

State Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, attended the forum, as did a cluster of other elected officials. Hixon said it was great to see so many people running for office, coupled with the fact that the venue was filled by a standing-room-only crowd.

The primary election for District 84 is on July 30 – less than two weeks away. A runoff is set for Aug. 13.

All the candidates are Republicans. No Democrats filed.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin