Lee Bright Envisions Change in the State Senate
November 21, 2003
State Senate District 12 candidate Lee Bright held his first major fundraiser Thursday night at the Chopping Block restaurant at the River Falls Plantation in Duncan, South Carolina.
With a capacity crowd of 100 enthusiastic supporters in attendance, Bright outlined the plan of action he will take if the voters of Spartanburg County choose him to represent them in Columbia.
"The number one thing I want to do is go to Columbia and cut the waste," Bright exclaimed, telling the crowd that the state budget is too large and that taxes keep creeping upward.
Bright said that he "will hold the line on taxes," focusing especially on the property tax which he believes is an immoral tax.
Focusing on job growth and business expansion, Bright said despite the enormous criticism people have about the tax incentives they received, "BMW has saved the Upstate" economically. He said we need to create laws that will encourage more businesses to want to move to South Carolina.
On the issue of education, Bright said his experience as a Board of Trustee for Spartanburg County District 6 has taught him that there are problems with the way schools are being funded.
"The way we fund schools is just not proper," Bright stated, saying he believed there should be a per-pupil dollar amount and it should be financed by a slight increase in the sales tax rather than property taxes.
He added that there is too much bureaucracy on public education coming from Columbia and Washington.
Bright believes that "local control [of the schools] is key."
With higher education, Bright says that tuition rates are too high and must be examined closely to determine the root causes for the increases.
As for the civil justice system, Bright believes that major tort reform is needed beginning with a cap on punitive damages on medical malpractice and other lawsuits. He asserts that South Carolina laws that allow unrestricted amounts of money to be claimed against companies has discouraged new businesses from moving to South Carolina.
"To get jobs in [South Carolina] we need tort reform," he expressed.
Bright said that he has been told by officials in Columbia that "we are one senator away from tort reform."
He added: "If I win, then we'll have that vote" for tort reform.
Turning his attention to some of the budget cuts that have occurred over the past couple of years, Bright said he does not understand why essential areas such as law enforcement training and education need to be cut when a state lawmaker proposes new spending for parks or a new college stadium.
He argues that "we need more business people in Columbia to make a change" in the way state government is run.
Bright admits that he will probably not be very popular among his colleagues in Columbia if he is elected to serve. But he says it is not about making friends but rather doing the right thing once he gets there.
"I don't have a problem working one term and that's it," Bright suggested.
To that end, Bright said he will not sacrifice doing what is right for the sake of holding on to his seat in the state senate.
"To make a poor decision to remain state senator is not worth it to me," Bright concluded.
Wanting to be an example for his two beautiful elementary school-aged daughters, Bright said they have been his inspiration for his campaign.
"I'm not running for office in spite of the fact I have kids, but I am running for office because I have kids," he said.
Bright relayed a story about his eldest daughter helping him go door-to-door telling people about his candidacy. He even told the audience that his daughter single-handedly won over a voter recently with her smile and charm.
But Bright said he is cautious about having his daughter campaign for him in this race.
"I don't want to use my kid as a political prop," he exclaimed.
Being a newcomer to this level of local politics, Bright says he understands the challenge that lies before him over the next seven months. But he is motivated by something he was told by an unnamed official in Columbia.
"This race is yours if you can just get your name out there," Bright quoted the official saying.
Bright has already raised 40 percent more money in the second quarter and 38 percent more money in the third quarter than his incumbent opponent.
The Republican primary election for State Senate District 12 is slated for June 8, 2004.