|Gov. Jim Hodges (Democrat)|
Jim Hodges grew up in rural Lancaster, South Carolina, near the North Carolina border. He attended the University of South Carolina and graduated from the USC School of Law in 1982. After graduation, Hodges resettled in Lancaster to practice law. He became court attorney, and in 1986 started his political career with a successful bid for the state House of Representatives at the age of 29.
He remained in the South Carolina House for eleven years, becoming minority leader in 1994 and garnering the support of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the National Rifle Association with his conservative voting record.
While in the House, Hodges served as chair of the House Judiciary Committee from 1992 until 1994, and as House Democratic Leader from 1995 until 1997. When Hodges ran for governor in 1998, it was as an underdog against his Republican opponent, one-term incumbent Gov. David Beasley.
He had no opposition in the primary, but a poll taken in June 1998 showed Hodges had only 43 percent name recognition across South Carolina. Beasley, meanwhile, trounced his Republican opponent, Bill Able, 72 percent to 28 percent.
Beasley's popularity made him a formidable opponent, but Hodges immediately began to focus on the state of South Carolina's education system, which had students finishing last in the nation on the SAT exam in 1997.
Hodges cited Beasley's opposition to all-day kindergarten, and proposed a state lottery that would give about $150 million a year to educational programs such as pre-school classes and college scholarships. The proposal helped Hodges gain ground over Beasley, who initially opposed the lottery but changed his mind a month before the election.
Beasley's missteps also helped Hodges pull ahead in the election. In the heated issue of whether the Confederate flag should be removed from the dome of the state Capitol, Beasley was initially in favor of allowing the flag to remain. In November 1996, he switched positions, calling for the removal of the battle flag to the Capitol grounds - a move to which some fellow Republicans reacted angrily.
Hodges won the gubernatorial race with a clear 53 percent to 45 percent margin, carrying nearly every rural county. He did especially well in the urban areas of Charleston County and Richland County -- home to South Carolina's capital, Columbia.
As governor, Hodges worked to add the Martin Luther King Holiday to South Carolina's calendars; he also played an instrumental role in removing the Confederate flag from the state Capitol's dome to its grounds.
He endured harsh criticism for mistakes during the evacuation of Charleston and the Low Country during 1999's Hurricane Floyd. Newspapers across South Carolina, particularly Charleston, chastised Hodges for not making traffic South Carolina's I-26 one-way to avoid the severe traffic jams that occurred as residents tried to flee the storm's path.
Hodges defended his evacuation plan, telling the NewsHour in 1999 that the process of moving hundreds of thousands of people inland still occurred in a timely manner. "I think we need to put things in perspective here," Hodges said. This was the largest peacetime evacuation in the history of the United States, and it was all done in about a twelve or a twenty-four hour period.
When you have 800,000 South Carolinians leaving the coast, coupled with over a million from other areas below us in Georgia and Florida, you're going to have traffic problems."
During his tenure, Hodges also signed a bill encouraging schools to get students to say "Yes, sir," and "Yes, ma'am" to teachers. He announced a plan to raise teacher salaries to the national average by 2007, and opposed tying the raises to teacher performance.
In his bid for re-election this year, Hodges faces a strong challenge from former Congressman Mark Sanford. Like Hodges' 1998 bid, the race has concentrated on issues such as education and the state budget. Hodges is married with two sons, Luke, 9 and Sam, 6.
--By Jessica Moore, Online NewsHour