Gubernatorial candidate James Smith talks environment during Aiken visit

April 20, 2018

On Thursday morning, the Conservation Voters of South Carolina endorsed the gubernatorial campaign of state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia. That night, Smith spoke to Aiken County Democrats, making sure to reference the latest surge of support.

Before talking about his education plan – which involves “arming” teachers with better pay, smaller class sizes and increased resources, he said – Smith brought up the Conservation Voters affirmation.

“Today, I had another big boost in the campaign…” Smith said, hinting at that morning’s news.

The endorsement is far from bewildering: The Conservation Voters have assigned Smith a 97 percent lifetime conservation score, according to the group’s website, and the South Carolina Sierra Club endorsed Smith earlier this year. In 2009, the Conservation Voters gave Smith a “Green Tie” award for environmental leadership, according to a related press release.

The representative, after delivering an anecdote about canoeing and camping with his father, told the Aiken County crowd the Conservation Voters support means a “great deal” to him personally.

Smith has worked on solar energy legislation, efforts he recounted Thursday night, and opposes offshore drilling in South Carolina, an idea cracked open this year by President Donald Trump’s administration. Offshore drilling in the state has been met with resistance from both sides of the aisle at nearly every political level.

During his Thursday night speech, Smith said he wants to protect the state’s natural resources so they’re available for “generations to come.” He later said doing so has economic development ramifications.

“The best ones happen when you have a place to live, play and work,” Smith said, “and you show respect for your natural heritage.”

The Democrat said the Conservation Voters nod shows his campaign is credible and not just based on crowd-pleasing oration.

“They can look back over two decades of work and know they can count on me to be there when it comes to making the right decisions…” Smith said.

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