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Politics: Voters look for standouts in crowded congressional race

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Dick and Carole Faulk of Pawleys Plantation didn’t just listen last week during a forum for the nine Republican candidates for the new 7th Congressional District.

They took notes and by the end of the sold-out event at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort, they had three clear favorites.

“We rated them,” Dick said. Chad Prosser of Murrells Inlet, the newest entrant into the race, Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice and Randal Wallace, a Myrtle Beach City Council member, came in first, second and third.

“It was very close,” Dick said. “I thought they made the best presentations. They hit the right subjects and really had a good message going out.”

Prosser, Rice and Wallace, along with Jim Mader of Litchfield and Jay Jordan of Florence seemed to top the list for a lot of voters after the event. The national debt, a need to curb out-of-control government spending and job creation made up the bulk of what they talked about.

The Faulks listed the economy and cutting spending as the main issues they were looking for candidates to address. Of their top three, each “said you’ve got to stop somewhere and take a step back. You can’t just keep funding everything,” Dick said. “There is no money and the president’s saying, ‘well, we’re just going to tax the rich.’ ...That’s not what we do in this country. It’s not the way to get ahead and it won’t make a difference. The costs are too high and the expenses of government are too high.”

Candidates were each given 10 minutes to talk about themselves and their platforms during the forum and were on hand to talk with voters and answer questions one-on-one before and after. It was a format Maury Smeyne of Litchfield, who attended with his wife, Brenda, said he liked. He noted a lot of similarity in what the candidates had to say, being that they toe the Republican party line.

However, as candidates spoke he came up with a list of specific questions for them that might not have come up otherwise. “To me that’s what these things sort of help do,” Maury said. “I’d like to see more of this kind of stuff, I really would.”

Neither of the Smeynes left with any favorites, they said, but the event at least helped them narrow the field.

“There are probably one or two that I may have eliminated tonight – we won’t even go there – but that leaves me with some research to do,” Maury said, getting hearty agreement from his wife.

“I’m leaving here, going home and getting on my computer, and Googling,” she said. “We have some choices, which is nice. I think we’re lucky to have as many reputable people running as we do.”

The candidates hit all the topics Brenda wanted to hear addressed, she said, but Maury was looking for more about their views on a flat tax.

“I’m not sure that got nailed down from all the candidates,” he said.

There are still a lot of questions John Roen of Georgetown wants to ask. He too was able to narrow his choices, but hasn’t made up his mind who he’ll vote for in June.

“I really have to talk to them about how they’re going to handle the expenditures on a national basis relative to a local basis; whether they put the nation first or whether they’re going to put small interests within our local communities first and how they weigh those decisions,” he said. “I think that’s very important, especially with the tremendous debt that we have. I believe that comes first.

“We may have to suffer a little throughout the nation but we gotta take care of that debt or we’re gonna go off the precipice.”

Marla Hamby of Allston Bluffs narrowed her choices to three. She declined to name them, but said what she’s looking for is simple.

“I want a candidate who is going to go to Washington and make Washington smaller,” she said. “I want him to go there and stand on principal.”

Hamby was joined at the forum by friends from a Tea Party group in Horry County.

“I think Randal Wallace nailed it,” said one member, Jean Hampton. She also liked Prosser, Jordan and Mader.

Jordan and Mader were “refreshing,” according to Janet Spencer, another member. Mader owns a small landscaping company and Jordan is a lawyer, small business owner and Sunday school teacher. Neither are politicians, they say.

Spencer was also impressed by Wallace and Prosser.

“I just want a candidate to go to D.C. and do what he says he’s going to do,” she said. “When you go to Washington, don’t you forget what you campaigned on and what you told us you were going to stand for. Don’t forget us back here, because we sent you there and if enough people come together we’ll take you out next time.”

Ted Quantz of DeBordieu is backing Rice and is a member of his finance committee. “But it’s interesting to see what other people bring to the table and make sure that our candidate really reflects what we need,” he said.

“Georgetown has an integral part to play in this election. There are a lot of Republicans in Georgetown County. We’re going to have a lot to say about who gets elected and it’s important that every candidate understands the issues that are especially unique and special to Georgetown County.”

Not much was said about two candidates: the former lieutenant governor, André Bauer, and Dick Withington, who produced a sword and a whip during his time on the stage and introduced his pet ant, Obama.

“I was a little disappointed in both the female candidates,” Dick Faulk said. He remarked that he told his wife the forum would be a great opportunity for a female candidate to talk about the need for a woman representative. Reneé Culler did that, pointing out that no women represent South Carolina in Congress.

“It wasn’t enough,” Faulk said. “She missed some of the problems that the country has.”

As for Mande Wilkes, “when you take questions, you’ve got to be ready to answer ’em,” he said.

Wilkes was the only candidate to go against the event format and ask for questions from the audience. When she failed to answer one, she was called on it.

Find links to all District 7 candidate websites at georgetowngop.org.

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