A Q&A with the District 45 representative
BY JOSH P. CROTZER
Brandon Newton became the youngest member of the South Carolina General Assembly when he was elected to the state House of Representatives at age 22 in 2017. He retains that status still in his fourth term representing Lancaster and Kershaw Counties’ 45th district. Newton teaches business courses at his alma mater, University of South Carolina Lancaster. He also earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and an MBA from Winthrop University. Newton lives in Lancaster with his wife Allison and his son, Wales.
Why did you get into public service?
I think I took a very odd path to being in the General Assembly. As a high school student, I attended my first political meeting and I just got hooked. I became active in local politics, helped run campaigns and when I was in college, I made the decision that I wanted to run for office myself. I just never envisioned it would be in my senior year.
But when my state house member wasn’t running for re-election, she called and encouraged me to run. It was odd knocking on doors and meeting people as a 21-year-old and asking them to vote for me. I never thought I’d be doing that at that age, but it was a blessing. It’s been an honor to represent my hometown.
What is your proudest achievement in that role, so far?
There are two, honestly. One reason I enjoy state government is that it controls our infrastructure—roads, bridges, water, sewer and now high-speed internet, which has become a new form of infrastructure. The investments that we’ve made there is something I’m really proud of because it changes people’s lives.
The second thing is that I was the lucky guy whose job was to rewrite our election laws, a couple of years ago. That omnibus bill created early voting, changed how we do paper absentee ballots, modernized our system and our reporting of election results and a lot of other small technical changes that made the job a lot easier for our election workers. I think that we’re the only state in the country that redid election laws and didn’t a have a fight. I’m really proud that we went under the radar of national politics and got a system that both parties agreed to.
What challenges do the communities you serve face and how can we address them?
Because I represent a rural area, infrastructure is still going to be a big thing. Our roads are finally starting to catch up through the gas tax increases that we’ve done, but there’s still a long way to go for our rural secondary roads.
We’re going to have to have a conversation about how to pay for paving roads. The more cars that are electric, the less that are going to be paying with the gas tax.
Also, with electric vehicles, power is going to be a major issue. We could have a shortage of energy production. People were aggressive with the closing of coal and gas power plants. Now with electric vehicles, you’re moving all of that energy consumption from the gas pump to an outlet. We have to look at how we produce more power and I think nuclear—maybe small modular nuclear power plants—is going have to be a part of that.
In what ways can electric cooperatives and policymakers collaborate to address these issues?
I think just being involved, being in the conversation as co-ops always are. So, continue to work with us on broadband. Co-ops are really the source of how we’re going to expand broadband to the vast majority of rural South Carolina. Secondly, continue to be involved with your members and updating them on what we’re doing, the role you’re playing and how it affects them, especially when it comes to utility reforms.
This is the second in a series of profiles about the legislators that represent Lynches River Electric members in the South Carolina General Assembly.