Michelle Brandt – South Carolina – State House District 114
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am an environmental scientist, a wife and a mother of 2 elementary school age children. I currently serve the community as commissioner of Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. I am deeply involved in my community and I strive to model initiative, hope, and service by leading in various areas in our community including: the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (CMCC) Regional Housing Coalition, the School Improvement Council, Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM), and the Charleston Area Urban League.
Why are you running for office?
In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, I volunteered with Charleston Hope, a local non-profit that works with schools where kids don’t always have access to healthy food. One very hot day I was part of a group of 20 people volunteering to provide groceries on America Street to those in need. A man rode up on a bike and politely asked me for food.
I offered him frozen eggs. Much to my dismay he said no because he doesn’t have electricity or access to a refrigerator. As he peddled away, I wondered what that might be like in all of this heat and in life in general to not have electricity or a refrigerator. It got me thinking about how can we expect people to thrive when they don’t have access to basic tools for survival – and what can I do.
As I was driving home, I felt stunned and heartbroken. It was a jarring wake-up call. I knew there were systemic issues that affected all of us in different ways, but having it right there in front of me like that, I knew I couldn’t stay on the sidelines any longer.
After that, I continued volunteering but I wanted to do more. I wanted to understand what it would take to be part of making the changes that we need and to help find solutions. I began attending county council meetings, offering public comment, and connecting with council members and lawmakers. I was appointed Commissioner of Charleston County Parks and Recreation in 2021.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to serve. Our community faces so many issues like affordable housing, traffic, flooding, inaccessible healthcare, and overflowing classrooms.
My faith in our promise, my training as an environmental scientist and my experiences as a mother, friend, and community member have prepared me to run and serve you as the State Representative for the 114th District.
What are the three biggest issues facing your community?
There are several, but our most urgent issues are access to affordable housing, quality education for our children, and reproductive rights.
How do you propose to solve those problems?
I will fight to increase affordable housing and bring down the cost of housing for every family by offering incentives that fast-track starter homes & create homes at more varied price points, establishing a renter’s tax credit, and ending bans on smaller lot sizes, townhomes, & apartments. I believe we can improve the educational experience of every student by reducing class sizes, increasing teacher pay to a living wage, and allocating funding for school buses to make all state-funded schools accessible, regardless of a family’s income & resources. We must protect choice and I will start by supporting families and doctors through legislation that protects pregnant peoples’ rights to safe and accessible healthcare, secures access to contraception, and assures that doctors can care for their patients without fear of prosecution for providing life-saving treatment.
What is your stance on environmental and climate concerns that are facing your community?
Climate change is something that we need to address now instead of waiting for the next disaster to spur us into action. The Lowcountry is heavily impacted by flooding and and prone to dangerous storm surge, so we need to invest in solutions to reduce those impacts including clean energy and adaptive infrastructure to mitigate the effects of climate change. Climate change is everyone’s responsibility, but large scale change begins with legislation.
What commonsense gun safety measures would have the most impact on your community?
I would propose Red Flag laws which allow family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if there is evidence they may try to hurt themselves or others. We can’t prevent every tragedy, but when a person is in crisis, temporarily removing guns from a dangerous situation could save their life or the lives of others. I would also propose criminal background checks for all gun sales and legislation prohibiting open carry in places where children learn and play and where alcohol is served.
How would criminal justice reforms impact your community?
I believe that funding non-police responses to crises involving people with disabilities or mental illness, radically reducing pretrial detention and ending money bail would help the community and increase the public trust.
How would you work to protect a woman’s reproductive health?
I would support families and doctors by creating legislation that protects pregnant peoples’ rights to safe and accessible healthcare, ensures equitable access to contraception, and defends the ability of doctors to provide life-saving treatment to their patients without fear of prosecution.
What measures would you advocate to ensure that your constituents have the right to vote?
We should work to make voting more inclusive and accessible for all qualified voters. One way to do this is by conducting comprehensive accessibility audits on election systems to make sure we’re constantly improving voting accessibility. Next, we need to automate voter registration as a part of the DMV process like other states have done to increase voter participation. We should also adopt portable registration which would keep voters’ registrations active when they move within the same state. This would be particularly beneficial to the groups that move the most often: people of color, lower-income people, and young people. Additionally, we need to make it easier to vote by mail and make election day a holiday in South Carolina.
How can supporters best help your campaign?
There are several ways to help! Most importantly, make sure you VOTE! But also, tell your friends about our campaign, volunteer to talk to voters with us and if you can, make a donation so that we can keep our outreach strong until election day! You can donate to our campaign here.
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