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Tyler to challenge Purcell for House seat
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Jesse Tyler, left, is running for the state House District 159 seat against former Rep. Ann Purcell. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Jesse Tyler isn’t worried about the radio and print advertisements Ann Purcell is running as part of her campaign.

Tyler, 26, of Rincon, and Purcell are running for the state House District 159 seat, being left open by Buddy Carter’s decision to run for the newly-opened 1st District Senate seat.

“I don’t feel like I’m part of the establishment,” he said. “I don’t have a voting record. The best way to represent the district is to meet with as many people as I can in the district and find out what their issues and concerns are. I’m going to get out there and meet with these people.”

Tyler said he was approached about running and those who spoke to him said there was a need for new blood in the system.

“I had joked around about running for office,” he said. “It looked like something where we needed to get a conservative in there.”

Tyler said he made the decision to run about a month ago. He’s had experience in campaigns — he was a field representative for former Congressman Max Burns and the South Georgia campaign director for John Oxendine’s gubernatorial campaign. He was also state vice chairman of the College Republicans and worked on a gubernatorial campaign in North Carolina. He also worked for the national office of the College Republicans.

“I bring fresh, new ideas,” he said. “I promise to do my very best to listen to your ideas and not to those of special interests. I think one of the biggest problems that is plaguing politics in general is you get people who get in there and stay in there and bow down to special interest.”

Tyler said he’s become fed up with wasteful spending in the state and federal government.

“I’d say the majority of it is waste. It seems to me the state has taken on the role the church was supposed to play. It’s not the state’s job to find me a job. It’s not the state’s job to feed the poor. I believe that’s the role the church should play. Throwing money at problems doesn’t solve anything. And that’s what we’ve become accustomed to, throwing money at problems and hoping it goes away.”

Tyler said he will be walking through the district, which includes west Chatham and South Effingham, for the next four weeks.

“I believe I represent the values the district has,” he said.

Though there are two Republicans running in the special election, which is nonpartisan, Tyler attempted to draw distinctions between himself and Purcell.

“I think there is a big difference between myself and my opponent,” he said. “(She) was a 14-year Democrat in the House. I’ve always been a conservative, and I would never switch parties for personal gain.”

Tyler also said that Purcell’s voting record during her time in the House shows she voted with the late Tom Murphy, the Democrat who was Speaker of the House for 29 years.

Tyler has been a registered Republican since he was old enough to vote, which was eight years ago.

“I think it’s interesting she switched parties right before the election,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

Purcell said her move to switch parties was one that developed over a period of time.

“It wasn’t a decision that was sudden,” she said. “What made me look at where I needed to be were my values and how I was brought up. The party I was in was moving away from values and beliefs. I was a conservative Democrat, and I didn’t always vote with the leadership. My values mean a great deal to me. I went by the values I was raised by, and those were conservative values.”

Purcell was a House committee chairman and served as appropriations subcommittee chairman for the Higher Education committee as a Democrat.

“I announced prior to the end of the (2004) session that I would be running again and that I would be running as a Republican,” she said.