Mt. Pleasant councilman eyes seat held by indicted state representative

Mark Smith vowed to work as hard in the state election as he did for the Mt. Pleasant Town Council.   Contributed photo

Mt. Pleasant Councilman Mark Smith is gearing up for a run to take a seat in the state legislature, and it may be sooner rather than later if the embattled incumbent decides to resign.

Smith said Wednesday that he would not compete in this November's Town Council election, and will instead focus on taking the seat held by suspended state Rep. Jim Merrill (R-Berkeley) of the 99th District that covers parts of Charleston and Berkeley counties.

"We have had no representative during the entire session, during the budget session or on infrastructure," Smith told Palmetto Business Daily. "We had no seat at the table for this last year."

Merrill was indicted Dec. 14, 2016 on 30 charges of misconduct in office. The 14-year House member is accused of using his office and his private company to illegally siphon off $1.3 million into his personal bank accounts. He denies the charge, but was suspended from the House of Representatives shortly after a grand jury returned the indictment.

Asked whether he believes Merrill will stand down ahead of the November 2018 vote and trigger an early election, Smith said, "We don't know."

But Smith says he is ready and will begin campaigning immediately, while still working for his Council constituency. "I will do both," he said. No-one else has yet to declare an interest in running for the seat, though it is early.

Smith said he has received "lots of encouragement from the business community and the constituents," and the councilman promised "honest, ethical, hard  working leadership no matter what."

"With my business experience, creating jobs and my fiscal conservatism, they make me well prepared and ready for state level," Smith said.

He believes also his work on the Town Council has prepared him to be aware of the issues and problems facing all municipalities in the state.

"We are going to have to raise some money," Smith said, adding that since he entered the race Wednesday he managed in 24 hours to raise $20,000 through both large and small donations.

Smith vowed to work as hard in the state election as he did for the Town Council.

"I am going to work as hard as humanely possible to win. I am all in, and I am going to work as  absolutely as hard as I worked on the town council," Smith said.

Smith, a father of three children, is a former chairman of the East Cooper Republican Party. He was first elected to the Council in 2013. He is co-owner of McAlister-Smith Funeral Homes.

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