Four candidates, including a former state representative, are vying for the S.C. House District 93 seat that covers parts of Calhoun, Lexington and Orangeburg counties.

The four Democrats who will face each other in the June 11 primary are:

  • St. Matthews resident Chris Roland.
  • St. Matthews resident Phillip J. Ford.
  • Orangeburg resident and former state Rep. Jerry Govan.
  • St. Matthews resident Johnny Felder, son of former District 93 Rep. John Felder.

Current Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, is running for the Senate District 26 seat and is not seeking re-election to the House.

No Republican filed for the seat.

Party primaries will be held June 11 with any runoff scheduled for June 25.

The general election is Nov. 5.

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The son of a former longtime representative who held the same seat, Felder is also a St. Matthews resident and an attorney at McGowan, Hood, Felder and Phillips LLC in Columbia.

“Having grown up in a family committed to public service, helping other people is simply in my blood. It has carried over into what I do for a living as an attorney and the numerous charities with which I have been involved. This election is a unique opportunity to continue to help people and to create better futures for every family here in House District 93,” Felder said.

“Although I have been around and involved with politics all my life, this is my first time running for political office,” he said.

Fighting inflation, making roads better, raising teacher pay and improving public safety are among the things he would like to address.

“I would like to look to increase the child-care tax credit, family caregiver tax credit, etc. Also, making investments into energizing economic development issues in rural communities must be a key component, which also means continuing launched efforts to widen access to better vocational and technical trade education and workforce training,” Felder said.

He continued, “Now that South Carolina has better stabilized its funding source for road construction and maintenance, I want to make sure taxpayers see more of their tax dollars they pay to the state come back to make sound and more lasting investments into OUR district.”

He said providing better support for teachers is also key.

“There is a teacher shortage crisis statewide. Seventy percent of people who leave the teaching profession have less than 10 years of experience in the field. That means there are issues of burnout, discipline, distractions, etc. that have to be addressed,” Roland said.

“You would like to see more of a blue-ribbon panel bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together to stop treating public education as a political football. This begins with making a commitment to provide MORE than just a minimally adequate education to children in South Carolina public schools,” he said.

Felder said he also wants to make sure local law enforcement has the training and equipment they need “because everyone deserves to feel safe … in their communities.”

Born and raised in Calhoun County, the 56-year-old attended Wofford College and earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. He and wife Kim are parents of adult children. He is now poised to continue the public service that he said he saw his father engage in.

“I never fathomed that I would have the opportunity to possibly hold the same House seat. … Other than being born and raised in this district, I have always stayed connected to the community through coaching, through the local church I attended growing up and through my family even while pursuing a law career and other ventures away from home,” he said.

Felder continued, “During that time I have been helping people through my law practice and numerous charitable organizations while staying close to politics, and developed strong relationships in Columbia that will allow me to effectively advocate for the citizens of District 93.

“While this district is already a special place, I want to further improve the quality of life and sense of community in our district. I would like to see more young people coming home with a bright future right here in District 93 instead of moving away and staying somewhere else.”

Ford is founding principal of the Ford & Ford Group, a consulting firm through which he works on public policy and grant writing for nonprofits.

He said he would provide the necessary leadership to represent House District 93.

“I am a dedicated public servant, small business owner and passionate advocate for the people of Orangeburg, Calhoun and Lexington counties. I was born to two small business owners who instilled in me the value of hard work, building community and always standing up for others. These are the guiding principles of my life and will stay with me as I represent the people of District 93 in the South Carolina Statehouse,” Ford said.

While this is his first time running for a political office, he said he has been “involved with the Democratic Party for many years, serving in local, state and national leadership roles.”

“With a focus on transparency and accountability, I will work tirelessly to bridge the gap between government and the people, making sure that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed. I am committed to fostering an inclusive and diverse community that celebrates the strengths and contributions of every individual,” Ford said.

The 37-year-old was born and raised in Orangeburg.

“District 93 is my home and where my roots are. I understand the importance of community and the challenges that face us. With my proven track record of working collaboratively to find practical solutions, I’m ready to fight for my family and that of others in Columbia,” he said.

Ford continued, “My experience in public service spans over a decade while serving in various leadership roles. I’ve worked to bring in millions of dollars to District 93 to increase access to health care, end hunger and increase educational opportunities.

“I have spent the last 10 years of my career advocating for positive and equitable policy changes at the Statehouse. My extensive knowledge of policy, government and the legislative process make me well-equipped to tackle the complex issues that our state faces today, including public education, access to health care, good-paying jobs and safe communities.”

He said he has, for example, successfully advocated to end school lunch debt collections for state residents.

“I fought for a healthier South Carolina through my work with Eat Smart, Move More, working to create community gardens and food distribution sites in food deserts across District 93.

“I’ve traveled to D.C. to ask our state’s congressional delegation to invest in kids by expanding benefits in the Farm Bill, increase funding for cancer research and protect our rural communities. I have also testified before numerous state Senate and House committees to improve outcomes in maternal health, child safety and protecting reproductive rights,” Ford said.

“I am a person of action, and I will continue this work to improve our state,” he said.

Ford is a 2009 graduate of The Citadel, where he majored in political science.

Govan, who represented Orangeburg-based House District 95 from 1992 to 2022, said he is running because “Orangeburg for the past two years has lost an important voice in the House of Representatives in Columbia because of the illegal gerrymandering of district lines.”

“We were targeted because we constitute an area consisting of primarily Democratic and minority voters; however, additionally, I believe that we were targeted because of our delegation’s seniority in the General Assembly. So they pitted Russell Ott, who has elected to run for the Senate, and me against each other,” he said.

Govan wants to seek funds for local projects such as a senior center in the New Brookland and Nix-Stilton communities of Orangeburg. He also wants to secure funding for Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and South Carolina State and Claflin universities and to continue work on legislation “dealing with student loans, financial literacy and K-12 education.”

“I am the only candidate in this race that has the legislative and governmental experience, vision and proven track record of service that can best serve all three counties and is ready to serve day one,” he said.

Govan ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for state superintendent of education in 2022 after redistricting placed him and Ott in the same district.

Govan did not seek re-election to the House after the redistricting, but said he is now poised to “put together a workable and visionary economic development plan for the benefit of all people” in collaboration with officials from across Orangeburg, Calhoun and Lexington counties. 

He said the counties will experience significant changes over the next decade that will impact the future. Communities and “not outsiders” must determine what that future will look like. 

Govan said economic growth should not come at the expense of individuals’ quality and way of life.

“And we should not have to compromise our core values, or what we believe in as a community. There must be smart growth that should reflect a balance that respects our past, but builds our future in such a way that retains and reclaims our youth, who are leaving us every day for better opportunities and quality of life,” the former state representative said.

He said Orangeburg and the mid and lower portions of Calhoun County are of particular concern because of housing and economic development trends that are either already in progress or on the horizon.

“That will call for critical choices and decisions to be made at both the local and state level. Low-paying jobs and overbuilt subdivisions will not cut it. I am experienced enough to know and understand that once the mold is cast, we will be locked in for generations to come. We not only need to have a say, but clearly understand what ‘smart growth’ is and means,” Govan said.

The 66-year-old minister said he is a family-oriented servant leader who has the experience to be a good House representative.

“I have extensive experience in government by working at the state, local and federal levels, in the small business community as the owner of an insurance and consulting agency, and I have an active record of community service with several nonprofit organizations,” Govan said.

The lifelong Orangeburg resident is married, and the couple has four daughters and seven grandchildren.

He has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master of arts in teaching with a focus in early childhood education, an educational specialist degree in administration and leadership and an honorary divinity doctorate.

“I am a man of faith that considers himself a servant leader and hard worker who loves God’s people. I am one who believes that we all have value …,” Govan said. 

He continued, “I am proud of my record of local accomplishments that include funding for S.C. State, Claflin and OCtech, as well as restoration of the Orangeburg Cemetery, the Samaritan House, a senior center for the New Brookland/Nix-Stilton area, a Rosenwald project in the Great Branch community, and the extension of water and sewer throughout former House District 95.

“What many people may not be aware is the number of key legislative bills that I have sponsored, co-sponsored or advocated for, ranging from early childhood, K-12 and higher education, local teacher and staff pay increases, expansion of medical and teen after-school care, preventing the closure of Denmark Technical College and the creation of agencies such as DAODAS and the African American Heritage Commission, to name a few,” Govan said.

He said individuals seeking more information about him or his record can visit or email

Roland, an engineer, said he seeking the Democratic nomination for the House District 93 seat to bring a new perspective to the position.

“I was asked by a few close friends to consider running since Russell Ott had decided to run for SC Senate. My friends said that I would make a great representative based on all I had done for our community, my church, my family and what I had done with my business. They said that we need more people that are more interested in serving the fellow man than trying to profit off of being a representative,” he said.

The St. Matthews resident has worked over the past 34 years as a consulting telecommunications engineer.

He and a group of partners started an engineering company, Palmetto Engineering & Consulting, in 2007. With offices in St. Matthews, Greenville, Texas, and Arkansas, the company has grown to approximately 200 employees.

This is his first time running for a political office, but he said he would love to serve.

“I would love to serve my district in a way that would bring about a togetherness that has long been lacking. I would want to bring about changes that would bring well-paying jobs, trust from my constituents, and an ability to bring our Congress together to do things that make South Carolina a better place.

“This, of course, includes a lot of building blocks such as improving education and infrastructure. Since I have been working as a business owner, I would bring a business mind to politics. It brings a fresh perspective to the House and new ideas with a new way of thinking. I am eager to learn and advocate for my constituents based off of their concerns,” Roland said.

As he runs for a seat that he said has “created a great amount of interest,” his community service is an example of how he is already serving others.

“I have been involved in my community for decades through coaching several sports, helping with civic events, as a member of St. Matthews Rotary Club, as an active member in my church, and by helping build ramps for handicapped people. I generally help all those I can, no matter their station in life,” Roland said.

He said he has a “servant’s heart” that stems from his humble beginnings.

“I came from very humble beginnings and from a broken home. I worked very hard to provide a stable life for me and my family. God has gifted me with a servant’s heart. I graduated from Swansea High School and furthered my education at the University of South Carolina with a degree in engineering. I worked in Orangeburg as an engineer for nearly 18 years,” Roland said.

He continued, “I have been married for over 30 years and have two wonderful daughters and a great son-in-law. One daughter is a teacher in our district and the other is a registered nurse. My first grandchild is due soon.”

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

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