Two Republicans will face off in the June 11 Republican primary for the right to take on a long-serving incumbent in S.C. House District 91.

The district includes all of Allendale and Barnwell counties, along with thousands of people in western Orangeburg County in an area stretching from Springfield to Neeses, Livingston, Norway and Pine Hill on up to the Limestone One and Limestone Two area.

S.C. House District Rep. Lonnie Hosey, D-Barnwell, has represented the district since 1999. He faces no primary opposition.

The two Republican candidates are Williston resident Demaris Johnson and Barnwell resident and Barnwell County Councilman Ben Kinlaw.

The general election is Nov. 5.

Johnson, 47, said she seeks to connect with communities to “truly represent” their voices and needs.

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“It is my desire to connect with the citizens in our local communities to hear their voices and hear their needs. I intend to make their voices heard in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

“Economic development has evaded our communities for far too long, negatively impacting the quality of life and the financial success and independence of our citizens. I intend to fight tirelessly to make our area and the quality of life for our citizens something we can be proud of,” she said.

This is Johnson’s first time running for political office, but she is preparing to accomplish her goals.

“I am compiling a list of priorities and issues in the town hall meetings I am hosting. This data will reveal the true needs and desires of my constituents. The people will decide. I am merely their voice,” she said.

Johnson said she will “cultivate strong relationships and promote participation with the citizens in our communities.”

“My town hall meetings in our communities will be a forum for the people to express their concerns and needs. Your voice will be heard on the floor of the SC House of Representatives. I will not sit by idly and allow the larger metropolitan areas like Charleston, Columbia and Greenville to continue to have their needs met while ours are not. I believe every South Carolinian deserves to live in a community that is safe and has adequate access to health care, to include quality mental health care services and substance-abuse treatment,” she said.

Johnson continued, “Violent crime and drug abuse are destroying our youth. I will fight for additional law enforcement resources to combat these problems. Additionally, I intend to push for legislation that will mandate mandatory minimum sentencing for violent crime and the manufacturer and distribution of illegal substances.”

Johnson grew up in Williston, where she currently lives with her husband and son.

“As a teenager, I worked in our family bakery in Barnwell. During my senior year of high school, I worked at the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office as a data entry clerk, and I assisted with the training of the Explorers. While studying criminal justice at USC Salkehatchie, I continued my work at Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office,” she said.

She said her education in criminal justice and work at the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office taught her “the moral and ethical values that are essential for public service.”

“After college, I relocated to Jacksonville, N.C., and became a nationally certified pharmacy technician. Upon completing my training, I worked at the New River Air Station Medical Clinic as a pharmacy technician. After my son was born, I moved back to Williston and worked for a local bank as a teller and later as a financial services representative. I have been fortunate to be a homemaker for the last several years,” Johnson said.

She is a member of Rosemary Baptist Church.

“I am also a proud member of the National Rifle Association and for many years have volunteered as a poll worker for our local elections,” Johnsons aid.

Kinlaw, 75, said he decided to run for the House District 91 seat after having already served two terms on Barnwell County Council.

“House District 91 has challenges, and I would like to take my business and government experience to move our district forward,” he said.

“Barnwell is in the process of consolidating our three school districts. I would like to work with the school board to ensure this happens and be a resource to them,” Kinlaw said.

He said there are many issues of importance, including counties receiving inadequate funding from the state to fulfill mandates.

“The cost of county government to fulfill the mandates implemented by the state is less than the actual cost. Counties must step in and make up the difference from their general fund,” Kinlaw said.

He continued, “High unemployment continues to be a challenge … (and) workforce development is a challenge for our state and county.”

Kinlaw said he would continue his work with the Energy Communities Alliance, a nonprofit that brings together local government officials to share information, establish policy positions and promote community interests.

“I would partner with them as they work with counties who have Department of Energy sites located in their states. The ultimate challenge is to bring new mission work to the site,” he said, noting that he’d work to “foster better relations with the Department of Energy and National Nuclear System Administration.”

The Savannah River Site is a 310-square-mile DOE site that includes parts of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties.

Kinlaw is a North Carolina native who has lived in Barnwell for the past 23 years. He is married to Peggy Russ Kinlaw, mayor pro tem for the City of Barnwell. They are the parents of a son and they have two grandsons.

He attended Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, N.C., and has a background in the textile industry.

“I was a site manager for Mohawk Industry and am now retired. I proudly served in the United States Air Force and attend Barnwell Baptist Church,” Kinlaw said.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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