SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) — Candidate for SC House District 18 Michael Reitz (D) is hoping to unseat newly elected Alan Morgan (R) in the general election on November 8. Morgan was elected earlier this year to fill the former seat vacated by Tommy Stringer (R) in January.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The candidate

As a professional, I am an engineer, delivering creative engineering solutions to our customer’s most challenging problems, in industries like automotive, chemical, food and beverage, and renewable energy. 

The reason why I decided to run was that I felt that my community wasn’t getting the representation it deserves. And to me, representation by nature requires representatives are both accessible and accountable.

What would you like to change if elected by District 18?

I would start with three things in particular. First and foremost, I would like to fully fund public schools.

Public schools have not been fully funded in South Carolina since 2008. We’ve got seniors in high school who have never attended a public school with full funding.

I think that there are many people now who see this issue as a zero-sum game, where the only way my child can get ahead is at the expense of someone else’s child.

Pulling money out of public schools in the opposite direction we need to be heading. 

School funding plans are based on student attendance. So for every student, the school gets “x” amount of dollars.

Recently we’ve fallen about $700 dollars short per student, and that’s reflected in teacher wages, it’s reflected in the number of schools we’re building, it’s reflected in the number of classrooms we’re providing, and it’s reflected in how well classrooms are equipped.

It’s an investment in our future. It’s one of the most obvious investments that we can make in our communities and our future. 

My second biggest priority would be to legalize marijuana. I think that there are a number of benefits that this would bring to the state.  First and foremost, it would bring huge tax revenues into the state, based on other states that have already legalized marijuana. 

The state stands to earn between $300 million and $400 million per year from marijuana legalization. That’s more than the state education lottery brings in.

It would keep people out of the justice system. There are people locked up right now for simple possession or who took a plea deal to avoid worse punishment. It would also free up law enforcement priorities.

I think our police have a lot of better things to do than arrest people for simple possession. 

It would make for healthier communities. The legalization of marijuana has been associated with less opioid and alcohol abuse. I think it’s a no-brainer. The idea is extremely popular in South Carolina and nationwide.

The last thing that I’m particularly passionate about is protecting a woman’s right to access reproductive healthcare, whatever that may mean. I firmly believe there is no role for the government in a patient’s room.

A woman should have every option available to her to make decisions that are best for her based on whatever she thinks is important. She should have a fully informed perspective of all of the available options. 

Infrastructure plans?

There was a bridge on Highway 14 that was shut down yesterday for the immediate need of repairs.

Fixing infrastructure is popular to talk about, but as far as actual plans to make it happen are lacking. According to our current pace, we’re not even keeping up with putting on pothole patches.  

Absolutely maintaining our roads needs to be a priority, but we need to get ahead of things. 

Investing in local infrastructure is one of the easiest things to do. It is tax dollars spent in your community, for the benefit of your community.

We got at least two other bridges in District 18 on Wade Hampton Boulevard that are rated structurally deficient. 

We would love to get to those projects, but we’re not even keeping up with fixing potholes on new roads. 

Moving to the Upstate

I’m originally from Houston, Texas. I came to the Upstate in 2009 to go to Clemson University. I fell in love with the Upstate and never left. I met my wife at Clemson and she also works in the Upstate. 

Biggest inspiration?

One of my biggest inspirations actually was my dad who ran for school board when I was in high school. And so I got to witness that. When you have issues with the way that you’re being represented, you should try to make your voice heard. 

But also if you trying to make your voice heard and it’s not being heard at some point, it’s up to people to stand up for themselves. That’s what I think that I’m doing. 

What is it about representation in District 18 that you would like to change? 

First and foremost, accessibility. I understand at the end of the day, we’re voting for a person, and that person has their own set of principles, but by the nature of representation, you’re representing a group of people and you need to hear those opinions. You do have an obligation to represent those opinions as well. 

How have you been campaigning so far for this election? 

I’ve been knocking on doors, making phone calls, working on mailers, and getting postcards out. I’m working on getting a team around me that can help. I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my community if I thought I could do this by myself. I can’t knock on enough doors and shake enough hands and meet enough people to really get my name out there.