PICKENS COUNTY — Rep. Neal Collins is looking to extend his stint the South Carolina House beyond a freshman term and announced his intent to run for re-election with Gov. Nikki Haley in attendance to endorse his bid.
With protesters waving Confederate flags at the roadside entrance to the Pickens County Career and Technology Center, the site for the Collins fundraiser where he made his announcement, supporters gathered for local food, music, and words from the candidate and the Governor, who also took to the microphone to discuss economic development and Collins’ qualities as a political leader.
“Tonight I announced my re-election campaign, hopefully to no one’s surprise, and who better to be in attendance than a sitting governor (Haley),” Collins said Tuesday night. “The turnout tonight was unbelievable. Folks could have chosen to be doing anything tonight and they chose to be here and that means a great deal.”
As for where Collins feels the state and county stand at this point, he feels there are hurdles to be dealt with but the direction at the moment is a good one.
“It’s all a matter of getting the right voices involved, from the local to the state levels,” Collins said. “Right now I feel the state and the county are on the right track, it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum.”
Haley took to the podium and went right to the heart of her speech for the night.
“It’s great to be in the sweet spot that is Pickens County!” Haley began, before discussing jobs. “Just think how bright the future of this state is. We build planes for Boeing, automobiles not only for BMW but also Mercedes-Benz and Volvo and have created 74,000 jobs in 45 of 46 counties in this state.”
Pickens County is the one county where an economic development initiative has not taken place under Haley’s administration.
Although the governor spoke of statewide development, she focused on Collins as a representative of his district and the rarity of an endorsement from her office.
“You won’t see me in every district or see me endorse every candidate, but that’s why I’m in Pickens County tonight,” Haley said. “Neal Collins is a representative who stands for something. When it came to ethics reform, we stood together. Reform on spending was the same. Last year we had $1 billion in new money and this year $1.2 billion in new money, and yet last year there were some in the legislature who wanted to borrow another $500 million. He was against that and stood beside me to oppose it.”
Haley also cited Collins’ dedication and work ethic.
“This is a part-time job, being a legislator in South Carolina, and they have to still work their regular jobs, but that didn’t slow him (Collins) down or keep him from missing important debates and votes,” Haley said. “Following the shooting in Charleston, the flag debate came into play, and he (Collins) came in for the debate, left because of responsibilities at work, but was back in the well to vote on an issue which was heated. That took courage and that’s what you want to see. He has shown all the qualities of what we want in a leader.”
As of the printing of this story Collins is unopposed in his bid for re-election but time remains for interested candidates to file for the 2016 election cycle.
Reach D. C. Moody and Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.