Aiken Standard | Fliers attack candidate Young for S.C. House

Aiken Standard
By Rob Novit

Fliers mailed out in the last few days have singled out S.C. House District 81 candidate Tom Young Jr. of Aiken, and he’s not happy about it.

South Carolinians for Responsible Government’s Political Action Committee sent the fliers, in part branding Young as a trial lawyer supported by trial lawyers who want to sue doctors and drive up health costs.

“I was totally blindsided by this attack,” Young said. “I think they singled me out because we’re winning the race.”

SCRG is best known statewide for its support of a voucher-type alternative called tuition tax credits that parents could use for private schools. In past elections, the organization has aggressively campaigned against selected state lawmakers and candidates, both Democrats and Republicans.

SCRG also sent out a flier against House District 83 incumbent Don Smith, claiming he once voted to raise the gasoline tax from 16 cents to 21 cents. He said the legislature of which he is a member has cut property taxes, eliminated sales taxes on food and reduced the state income tax. He hasn’t done anything to suggest he would raise taxes, Smith said.

All three of Young’s opponents – Scott Singer, Brad Boni and John Kelly – in the June 10 Republican primary said they had no knowledge or involvement regarding the mailed fliers.
“My opponents should join me in denouncing these attacks,” Young said. “Either they condone the behavior or they believe in clean, honest elections.”

Singer reiterated he had nothing do with the mailing. But he’s not surprised that a group would criticize Young after he built an image of being a champion for small business and being a small-town lawyer, Singer said.

“He’s a trial lawyer with a prominent firm based in Columbia. The piece itself isn’t inaccurate.”

Boni also emphasized the flier came from a third-party group that hasn’t contributed to his campaign or endorsed him. He received one of the fliers in the mail.

“It’s really bad timing,” Boni said, “because it came out at the same time I had a flier. I hope people don’t associate me with that.”

For the past three months, Young said, he has talked in a positive way about dealing with issues affecting the district.

“I’ve tried to be a good citizen my entire life,” he said. “The last thing I would do is something to hurt people in the community.”

The SCRG flier also indicated that Pete Strom, president-elect of the Trial Lawyers Association, made the maximum contribution of $1,000 to Young’s campaign. Strom was appointed as U.S. attorney by President Bill Clinton. In another charge, SCRG said Young made a contribution to Democrat Steve Benjamin, who ran against the eventual winner, Henry McMaster.

The flier overlooks the complete story, Young said. Strom was his former law partner and was nominated during Clinton’s presidency for the position of U.S. attorney by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. Young was a partner of Strom Thurmond Jr. As for Pete Strom, he “has contributed to Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Strom Thurmond Jr.”
John Kelly said an organization like SCRG usually wouldn’t put something in writing like Young’s campaign donation to Benjamin if it didn’t have something to back it up.

But if it’s not true, Kelly said, “It’s a shame because Tom can’t defend himself against an allegation like that. There’s no forum to repudiate that.”

Young readily acknowledged that he contributed $100 during the Democratic primary in 2002 to Benjamin, a longtime friend and University of South Carolina classmate. But in the general election, Young donated $300 to McMaster, and “I’ve got the check to prove it,” Young said.

SCRG’s efforts, he said, are really about his unwillingness to support the organization’s efforts against public education.

“They know I don’t support their agenda to destroy public education,” Young said. “I do not support voucher programs. I’ve asked them to explain how it will help public education, and I’ve never gotten an answer.”

SCRG’s Executive Director Randy Page said the organization’s mission is directed at conservative, limited government, lower spending and school choice. Young is a trial lawyer and “typically trial lawyers only raise costs for families,” Page said. “… It’s also troubling why someone would support a liberal Democrat in a primary.”

Incumbent District 81 Rep. Skipper Perry, who didn’t run for re-election and is supporting Young, said he’s mystified why a group from New York has such an interest in a small House race in South Carolina.

Page responded that he’s from South Carolina, but Perry said SCRG is backed mostly from New York resident Howard Rich.

“It’s the most hate-filled stuff they’ve been sending,” Perry said. “It’s been awful … It’s all got to do with school vouchers, and they’ll use any means they can, like guilt by association. How can taking a contribution from his former law partner and friend make him (Young) the evil empire.”


  1. Mary Robinson says

    Please tell me your views on public education in SC.

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