In a race getting little attention, a Baxter Village attorney is running against the former Tega Cay mayor for a newly-redrawn state District 66.
Carla Litrenta promotes herself as a moderate Democrat who would serve as a voice for the people and reach across the political aisle to serve her constituents. David O’Neal, the Republican candidate, retired as Tega Cay mayor and then volunteered to run for the state legislature when no one else stepped forward in the party. He aims to make public safety a top priority. The new district covers portions of Fort Mill west of I-77 into Tega Cay.
The two candidates have many common themes, both wanting to improve roads, support law enforcement and keep Fort Mill schools strong with quality teachers.
The two candidates disagree on the need for gun reform. Litrenta is promoting a “gun sense” platform that aims to keep some guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals. She wants to eliminate the Charleston loophole, which allows gun dealers to sell a weapon to someone who doesn’t have their background returned within three days. She insists, however, that she supports the Second Amendment.
The mother of two young sons is a former Florida prosecutor and currently works as an attorney who handles some criminal defense as well as occasional civil cases, wills, trusts and estates.
“The gun violence in this state is pretty staggering,” she said, adding that she graduated two years after the Virginia Tech massacre that killed 32 people and wounded 17. “I had to call friends and family to make sure they were OK. … So I am sensitive to things like that.”
O’Neal said he has no desire to change the gun laws, which he said are currently sufficient. “How many laws do we need? We already have laws in place that crazy people shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “It’s a talking point for them.”
Background. In a Ballotpedia survey, Lintrenta described herself as “a proud mother, a trial attorney and a former civil servant who worked for seven years prosecuting criminal offenders and providing a voice to countless victims.” She is a member of three state bar organizations including North and South Carolina. Lintrenta comes from a family of small business owners and currently runs her own local law firm. (See her campaign website here.)
She said she is passionate about making sure local voices are heard in Columbia and will focus her campaign on preserving the small-town appeal of Fort Mill and Tega Cay, ensuring economic prosperity, excellence in the district’s schools, and supporting local law enforcement to keep the communities safe.
“I am committed to fostering an economic environment where families and small businesses can prosper,” she said in the survey.
In the same survey, O’Neal said he has been a resident of Tega Cay since 2001, retiring from the U.S. Army after 20 years of service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He currently serves as Vice-Commander in the Tega Cay Veterans Association. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Winthrop University, and a master’s degree in teaching from Winthrop University. (See his campaign website here.)
O’Neal served on Tega Cay City Council as mayor and mayor pro tem for six years. He has served as District Director for South Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District for Congressman Ralph Norman for five years.
He is married to Linda O’Neal and their kids attended Fort Mill Schools all 12 years, and later both attended Clemson University.
Politics. Both candidates agree that it’s an uphill battle for a Democrat seeking the District 66 seat considering the county leans Republican. York County is considered moderately conservative. In the last presidential election, 41% of the people voted Democrat while 57.4% voted for the Republican Party.
If elected, Litrenta would be in the minority party of a legislature that is heavily Republican. She said her legal skills lend themselves to persuasion, negotiation and dealing with adversarial parties. She said civility is missing in today’s political environment, and she aims to bring that back.
“It has to be done. I don’t think we have ever been so far apart as parties. I am a former Republican. I just felt like I really didn’t belong in that party in recent years,” Litrenta said. “It will end up benefitting all of us if we can get outside of these boxes.”
She said she has no interest in voting straight party line and will not be beholden to any particular group. Raised Republican, she remains fiscally conservative.
“If you are willing to work across the aisle, and you are willing to do that in a smart way, you can have as much power as anyone in that room,” she said. “I think it is an uphill battle, but I do think being out there, people want that moderate message.”
O’Neal said it is very hard for a Democrat to win in the area. He recalls that U.S. Rep Ralph Norman and state Sen. Michael Johnson each won by 20 percentage points as Republicans. He also challenged the ability of a moderate Democrat to serve effectively in the state legislature.
“There is no such thing as a moderate Democrat,” he said. “You can’t go to Columbia and be a moderate Democrat. They will kick you out.”
As for his agenda, O’Neal said he will work to support law enforcement like he has in Tega Cay, including the building of a state-of-the art police department and keeping the local force 100 percent staffed while other surrounding agencies struggled.
He wants people to feel safe in their community as well as their schools. O’Neal also mentioned keeping boys out of girl’s restrooms and males off of the women’s sports teams.
Finally, he said peak-hour traffic congestion affects every resident in the district, a costly problem in both wasted time and wasted energy stuck idling in cars. He calls York County a donor county, since for every $1 of gas taxes sent to Columbia, 56 cents is returned for road work.
“We need to bring more of our money back here,” he said.
The election will be held Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24. Find more resources, including a sample ballot and voting precincts at scvotes.org.
Other portions of Fort Mill have a choice between incumbent state Rep. Raye Felder (Republican) and challenger Matt Vilardebo, a Democrat.