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Politics: Crowded field tries to define itself

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Government spending is out of control, the federal government is encroaching on state and individual rights, and K-12 education should be handled entirely at a state level.

Those were some of the opinions shared by eight Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District nomination at a forum in Litchfield this week.

A ninth candidate, Katherine Jenerette, an Army Reserve officer, was called to duty at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The event drew about 80 people. Candidates made their case in a 10-minute speech that were supposed to cover four topics:

  •  the district’s biggest need (other than jobs);
  •  the federal government’s role in K-12 education;
  •  illegal immigration;
  •  and energy independence.
The need to rein-in government spending was mentioned by all the candidates, and state Rep. Tim Scott and Ken Glasson, a Mount Pleasant Town Council member, named that as the 1st District’s top need. That was one of few issues where candidate views varied.

Scott called for shrinking government and making tough choices about which services are truly essential. If officials are talking about releasing jail inmates because there isn’t enough money, funds for less-essential items, such as museums, should be cut, he said.

“It’s not revenues. It’s priorities,” he said.

Glasson mentioned cutting earmarks and all the candidates were for dismantling the U.S. Department of Education. The federal government has no role in K-12 education, they agreed.

Deficit spending by the federal government has reached about $3 million a minute, said Paul Thurmond, a Charleston County Council member and son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond. He called for balancing the budget by eliminating duplication of services, and limiting spending to what the country can afford.

Improved infrastructure was named as the 1st District’s biggest need by several candidates, including Thurmond, Carroll Campbell III and Stovall Witte.

Campbell, a Charleston businessman and the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr., favors widening Highway 521 to Interstate 95, completing I-73 and dredging the port of Georgetown “so we can put people back to work” in Georgetown County.

“That port is dying on the vine and it desperately needs help,” he said.

Stovall Witte, a former chief of staff to 1st District Rep. Henry Brown, who is not running for re-election, dredging the ports in Georgetown and Charleston should be funded by the federal government and promised to work hard to ensure it gets done.

Thurmond said the district also needs to expand the electrical grid “to make sure we can handle the flow of the next generation.”

Mark Lutz, a Mount Pleasant businessman, said there’s no question in his mind that the biggest issue for 1st District residents is encroachment by the federal government.

“It’s time for us to take back our country,” he said, adding that the tea party movement has given him new hope.

Clark Parker, an accountant in Horry County, talked about the need to preserve and protect Social Security and programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. He asked voters to send him to Washington to be their accountant, their auditor and their advocate.

Larry Kobrovsky, a former Charleston County School Board member, focused on the Constitution, its amendments and the need to stay true to the intent of those documents. He also called for term limits, but ran out of time before he got around to covering the other topics.

“Drill, baby, drill,” was a mantra for candidates as they addressed energy. They repeatedly called for offshore drilling, and Parker endorsed building more refineries, as well as modernizing coal plants.

Building more nuclear power plants was another popular solution.

“It’s also fine to pursue more energy-efficient technologies,” Lutz said, “but I don’t want the federal government subsidizing it.”

Candidates said that pursuit should be left to private industry.

“I think it’s important we continue to investigate all areas,” said Glasson, mentioning drilling possibilities and alternatives such as wind energy. But he, too, opposes cap and trade legislation.

Stronger border controls are needed to keep people from entering the country illegally, candidates agreed.

“If we can send a man to the moon, we can build a fence,” Scott said.

Unsecured borders are a national security issue, Witte said. “When we start looking at a country that cannot control its borders, we can not consider that a secure nation.”

In addition to sealing its borders, Thurmond said the U.S. needs to make English the official language and move illegal immigrants out of the country.

“Don’t just pick them up and drop them at the border,” Glasson said. “Put them on a ship and ship them to the southernmost part of [Mexico].”

Penalties should also be stiffened for employers who hire illegal immigrants and those who create false documents for them, he said.

The health care bill signed into law last month was also a recurring topic. All the candidates said they would work to repeal the bill.

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