District 115 Representative Peter McCoy is up for reelection this November, battling challenger Carol Tempel for the seat he first won from then incumbent Anne Peterson Hutto back in 2010.
SC State House District 115 representative has gone from hunter to hunted as an incumbent
By Charlie Morrison
South Carolina State House District 115 representative Peter McCoy has had a busy first-term representing James Island in Columbia. Having defeated incumbent Anne Peterson Hutto in 2010, McCoy entered the state legislature full of ideas and enthusiasm. McCoy is experiencing a role reversal this Fall, however, as he plays the role of incumbent in a November race against petition candidate Carol Tempel. And while McCoy’s efforts to sponsor bills that would help James Island typically met the stonewall that is doing business as a first-term representative in Columbia, McCoy stands by his voting record. What else is clear is trekking the hundred miles back and forth up I-26 to Columbia haven’t dampened the youthful enthusiasm that carried him to victory two years ago.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve really learned a lot, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of great folks and I feel like I’ve also had the opportunity to represent our district very well,” says McCoy during a recent interview with JIM. “I’ve been our voice up in Columbia on big Folly and big James Island issues.”
McCoy’s first term saw him sponsor a number of bills in response to the hot button issues of 2010 when he was first elected, issues that still simmer on the front burner today. McCoy’s 2010 platform hovered around the issues of unemployment, small business protections, crime, and education. For his part, McCoy’s taken strong steps, in both introducing bills to the House floor and voting on others, to establish a track record backing his campaign promises. McCoy’s task this November in battling challenger Carol Tempel for the District 115 seat is to defend that very record.
McCoy’s voting record earned him a number of commendations in his first term. The budgetary watchdog South Carolina Club for Growth named him a 2011 ‘Taxpayer Hero’ for his voting record on trimming government spending. McCoy was one of six representatives to have a 100 percent pro-jobs legislative record, according to the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, which presented each with their 2012 Business Advocate Award.
Additionally, McCoy was appointed to the House Judiciary committee, no small feat for a first-term representative. Given McCoy’s background as a Charleston County prosecutor and his current status as a family law and criminal defense attorney, he was more than eager to acquire the post.
And while his voting record earned McCoy more than a couple accolades, his record as a bill sponsor got off to a predictably rocky start, typical given the fact only roughly a handful of first-term representatives managed to pass bills in the 2010-2012 legislative sessions. McCoy introduced several bills that never got to see Governor Nikki Haley’s desk. McCoy penned the Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse Bill, a bill comparable to those already passed in 19 other states, and though it met committee and Senate approval, it was ultimately lost in the shuffle and never passed. Another seemly bi-partisan effort, a McCoy-sponsored bill to increase sentencing for second-degree burglary offenders met a similar fate, as did another bill providing for a mandatory minimum sentence for those who attempt murder on a law enforcement officer or those who commit a crime while on bond. McCoy vows to reintroduce the bills if he’s again elected to the seat.
“I thought my bills were common sense bills, and appropriate to the district. A lot of the things I pushed while I was up there were geared toward the issues that I learned from people and talking, going door to door,” says McCoy. Regarding the second-degree burglary bill, created largely in response to the daytime burglary spree that struck James Island during the summer of 2010, McCoy is particularly insistent. “I didn’t get it passed but I really pushed hard. Number one, (breaking into a home in the daytime) is not a strike offense during the day, and number two, whatever you’re convicted to, you only serve 33% of what a judge sentenced you to.
“If you come into somebody’s house, I don’t care if its daytime or nighttime, that’s pretty serious,” continues McCoy, a candidate that saw Charleston County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff DeGrow get shot during his 2010 campaign. “I tried to make mandatory minimums on shooting police officers in the line of duty stiffer as well. These guys like police officers, they’re putting their lives on the line for us and we need to protect them at all cost … it’s been an easy thing to do to promote bills like that.”
Part of the issue regarding the race for the District 115 seat is the redistricting or ‘gerrymandering’ that’s occurred since the 2010 election. Kiawah and Seabrook islands have been added to the district. Lost from the district were the traditional James Island neighborhoods of Westchester, Sol Legare, and Riverland Terrace, which are now part of District 119 and represented by Leon Stavrinakis. On that issue, McCoy is his typically enthusiastic self.
“They also have a lot of unique issues, so I’m looking forward to learning those issues and helping those folks if given the opportunity to be elected. I like the fact that now the seat has a lot of things in common,” says McCoy. “It’s a barrier island seat, and that was what was kind of behind the idea of making these lines the way they are.
As a husband to and the son of former Charleston County public school teachers, education is another central issue to McCoy, a proponent of charter schools and school choice. On education, McCoy is particularly proud of his record.
“When you look at the state of our school system right now in South Carolina it’s pretty upsetting. Where our rank is, and where our children are, and what our scores are, are all upsetting, all three of those thing combined. But you look at the amount of money that we’re given per student per classroom, and it’s strong,” says McCoy. “But what frustrates me is that, basically, forty cents on the dollar makes it to each student and the other sixty cents gets caught up in the bureaucracy of the edu-crats.
“The budget came up this year and I was one of the big pushers at the very beginning to give teachers a raise for the first time in four years. They do such a benefit and service to our community that it’s so important that we commend them and then reward them for their dedication,” McCoy adds, before turning his attention to the issue of charter schools.
“What people don’t understand is that charter schools are still public schools,” says McCoy. “The difference is that it puts parents involved in the curriculum, the education process and the decision making process, which to me, serves suits and serves children a whole lot better because you don’t want someone from Columbia telling you how to run your schools down here because they don’t know what schools down here need, and I think that’s why James Island Charter School thrives. If we can move to more of a charter school system, watch our schools take off … there’s not a doubt in my mind about that.”
When it comes to the future, the Peter McCoy of 2012 looks much like the one of two years ago, when his ideas, conservative base, and enthusiasm propelled him into the District 115 seat. “James Island is a unique district and that’s what makes it special. I think that you have to be a representative that’s open to listening. Everybody’s going to have a voice, everybody’s going to have a concern and you have to be able to help anybody and everybody that comes to your door, I think that’s important, but James Island is different from Folly, Folly is different that Kiawah … it’s going to be an adjustment, and I’m looking forward to it.”
For more information on Peter McCoy’s bid for re-election, see his website at www.petermccoy.org.