The newest member of the state legislature will also be the youngest.
22-year-old Republican Joshua Putnam won House District 10 in a special election Tuesday, easily defeating independent Dave Ballard. No Democrats entered the race.
“That’s pretty exciting in itself to have that responsibility and honor… to be the youngest one currently serving,” the Powdersville native said, “With that, it brings a lot of responsibility.”
District 10 includes parts of Anderson and Pickens counties. It contains the towns of Pelzer, Piedmont, Powdersville, and Williamston, as well as the outskirts of Easley.
Putnam will fill the seat of former Rep. Dan Cooper, who resigned in June.
He won his party’s nomination in July after a run-off. In Tuesday’s general election, he picked up 84 percent of the vote.
He attracted minor attention from state politicos in 2010 after coming within a 150 votes of the powerful Cooper in that year’s Republican primary. Prior to that, he worked as a staffer on several congressional campaigns. He also led the college Republicans at his alma mater– North Greenville University. Most recently, Putnam interned in Congressman Jeff Duncan’s office in Washington.
He currently works as a landscaping supervisor the Planter’s Touch in Greenville.
He won the GOP nomination despite concerns that he was too young and inexperienced to hold the office. “If you look at our Founding Fathers, they wrote in the law you have to be at least 21,” Putnam said, “So we’re qualified from that standpoint.”
While unusual, it is not unique for a legislator to first arrive to Columbia at such a young age. Current Rep. Kevin Ryan (R-Georgetown) is only eight months older than Putnam. He was also 22 when he defeated 14-year incumbent Vida Miller in 2010. Another legislator from Easley, Rep. Erik Bikas, was 24 when he was first elected last year.
Nor is it unique to Republicans– Democratic Reps. Boyd Brown (D-Winnsboro) and Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) were also 22 as freshmen legislators.
Because he’s filling out the rest of Cooper’s term, Putnam will be up for re-election next year. Due to a realignment of the districts in 2012, he will likely be matched against Bikas.