Jordan, Brank vie for House 63 seat
FLORENCE, S.C. – Republican Jay Jordan is competing against Democrat Mike Brank to retain the S.C. House of Representatives District 63 seat.
Jordan was born and raised in Florence. He said his parents kept him straight and made sure he was working hard. His parents, he said, provided an example of living life in the right way. He left Florence to attend the College of Charleston and the Charleston School of Law. Jordan said he had the good fortune of convincing his wife to marry him during that time.
Jordan had opportunities in several parts of the state but chose to return to Florence because it was the place he and his wife had grown up and they wanted to raise their kids where they grew up. Ultimately, Jordan began his own law firm a few years after returning to Florence. He said he had been practicing law for a little more than 10 years. Jordan and his wife have three children.
Brank was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, and his family moved to Kansas during his youth. The Brank family came to the Palmetto State in 1999. He graduated from Seneca High School in 2007. Brank then attended and graduated from Francis Marion University with a bachelor of arts in economics. At Francis Marion, he also was involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). He said he continued to work with the BCM program as an “intern, sort of missionary kind of position.”
Brank works for Match Factors as an account executive and also serves as a barista at Lula’s Coffee Company and described it as a “fun, passion kind of thing.” He added that he did it not because he needed the money but because he enjoyed working there because he got to interact with the public and the craft part of the job.
The S.C. General Assembly is divided into two bodies: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House is constitutionally mandated to have 124 representatives from election districts of roughly equal population. One of the 124 districts, House District 63, includes the area of west Florence.
Jordan was elected on April 14, 2015, to fill the remaining term after Kris Crawford resigned, citing family reasons and the reorganization of the House. Jordan was re-elected in the 2016 general election with 99.15 percent of the vote. He did not face opposition in either the general or primary election.
Legislators are paid $10,400 in South Carolina; however, they also receive money per month for in-district expenses that raises that amount to approximately $30,000.
Economic development (infrastructure)
“In some ways, Florence is kind of like a microcosm of the rest of South Carolina in some ways,” Jordan said. “But, I would say that economic development is the issue you can’t point to one thing and say we’re going to drive economic development with this.”
Jordan called economic development a combination of infrastructure, education and health care. He added that the legislature had taken “great steps forward” during his time in the House and that paving of several roads in Florence was underway. The investments in infrastructure, he added, would show the state’s commitment to having the kind of infrastructure to attract businesses to the state. Jordan also said the state must able to convince businesses that the state had the workforce to support their endeavors in the Palmetto State. He added that education had changed in the past few years because of concerns about safety and the continued development of technology.
“I have come to the realization – especially with a background in economics – that it’s not a factor of one thing,” Brank said. “I think the basis for economic development for South Carolina over the long term is going to be – if we want to simplify it to two things – is going to be a mix of education and infrastructure.”
Brank said he wants to improve the public’s access to education so that the state and its people would be prepared to handle any kind of job that came to the state in the future. He added that he wanted to improve the state’s roads, highways and ports so that South Carolina is attractive to out-of-state businesses. Brank also said he would like to see incentives for small business growth, which he said were more of a function of the local government, but he added that he would do anything he could to promote those incentives. He added that small businesses are job creators.
“If we don’t make it [education] a priority, we’re not going to get different results,” Jordan said. “An example of that – I hope is on people’s radar – is that in November, people are going to vote on whether the superintendent of education in South Carolina [currently Republican Molly Spearman] is going to continue to be elected as it has been or if it can be appointed by the governor.”
Jordan said that the ballot question asking voters whether the governor should be allowed to appoint the superintendent is not getting enough attention and that he hopes the public will be aware of the issue.
“There’s quite a bit of concern about our state’s position when it comes to education,” Brank said. “We’ve consistently placed pretty low, which is unfortunate, because we do put money into our education.”
He said a good start would be to listen to individual teachers regarding their needs and providing the funding to educators so that they could do their jobs. Brank added that the pay of starting educators was “way too low.” Brank also called for a hard look at where the state is currently spending its education funding.
Jordan also called Florence a health care hub for the Pee Dee region and said the people of the Pee Dee depend on Florence for health care. He added that there is an issue of health care in the rural parts of the state, too.
“I would like to do anything in my power as a state legislator to look out for the interests of all South Carolina citizens but also people that are the most in need,” Brank said. “I think access to effective and affordable health care is an absolute must.”
Brank said he wants to expand the state’s Medicaid program as a way of taking the opportunity to help people that are in need. He added that expanding the Medicaid program would be an exercise of compassion and common sense.
Jordan said he had serious concerns about medical marijuana but there are people who are suffering from serious health problems. He added that he is very sympathetic to the people going through those health problems. Jordan said the state is going to continue to explore the issue and to try to find the right path forward. He added that the states that have done the best with the issue are those that have created pilot programs and allow the state’s flagship medical university to control the program.
Brank said the legalization of medical marijuana is the right direction to go. He also said medical marijuana might be a safe, nonaddictive alternative to opioid-based pain medication. Brank added that medical marijuana might help break the cycle of opioid abuse. He also said that medical marijuana would be an economic development for the state, as new companies and industries would be created.
Jordan called Florence a unique community. He said that the community is both a growing metropolitan environment but that one doesn’t have to travel far to see plenty of farms. He added that the community was ready to take the next step. He also mentioned tax reform to make the state more competitive with its Southeastern neighbors and tax compliance to make sure the state’s residents do not lose money as the tax code shifts following the Trump tax cuts.
Brank also said his goal in running is not only to win but to encourage involvement in local politics by the youth. He added that he wants to be an example of a representative who listens to people and will talk over a cup of coffee. Brank said he wants to be the opposite of the negative portrayals of public officials in the news.