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Politics: Even GOP takes an interest in Democratic forum

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

What most struck Susan Smith about a forum in Georgetown this week for Democrats running for the 7th Congressional District was that it attracted a packed house.

A crowd nearing 200 people turned out for an event at Bethel AME Church to hear what the four candidates had to say, filling every seat, lining walls and crowding in doorways.

“I think we have a lot of good choices as Democrats and I’m very pleased we had a full room,” said Smith, a North Litchfield resident and alternate executive committeewoman for the state party. “That tells me there’s a lot more interest in the Democratic side of things than one would have thought in the 7th Congressional District. I think the 7th District is winnable for a Democrat and whoever our candidate is they will be well prepared to face the Republican nominee.”

Nancy Kolman, Georgetown County Democratic Party chairwoman, noted a number of Republican and independent voters in the room.

“I’m hoping we can pull all of you over to our way of thinking,” she told the crowd.

The forum was a joint effort between the party, the Coastal Observer and the Georgetown Times.

For Judy Clarke, head of the county Republican Women’s Club, the forum was the first ever Democratic event she attended. She picked Gloria Bromell Tinubu, an economist, and Preston Brittain, an attorney, as the Democratic frontrunners, but wasn’t persuaded to vote for either of them.

“It’s not because I didn’t like them,” Clarke said. “They both seem like quality people regarding their backgrounds, but especially Gloria was very strong on the fact she’s a big supporter of our president and a Democrat through and through.”

Sue Reddy, also a Republican, said she heard the sorts or thing she expected, mentioning Tinubu’s remark that she would be willing to cut funding for national defense to lower the deficit.

Brittain said during the event that he believes a Democrat will need to get Republicans to cross party lines to win in District 7 and that he’s the candidate who will be best able to do that. Clarke concurs and so does Reddy, though she wasn’t swayed to vote for him.

“I can see why he’s their frontrunner,” she said. “And a lot of his ideas and things he said were very close to the Republican guys.”

She would have liked to have heard more discussion about the port, and she and Clarke wish there had been more discussion about the budget deficit.

However, they’re glad they attended the event.

“It’s good to see a different side of what’s going on down here, having only lived here a year and a half,” Clarke said. “When you’re choosing a candidate, it’s better to know about all of them before you make a decision.”

Tom Stickler, a Democrat who lives in Hagley, had talked with most of the candidates previously, but didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get to know them and their positions better. He noted that Tinubu and Brittain seem to have the most support, but was impressed by Parnell Diggs, a Surfside Beach attorney and president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.

“I think he probably has the best theoretical and economic understanding of the issues,” Stickler said. “I don’t know who would be a stronger candidate against the Republicans. There’s probably more money behind Brittain, but I really don’t know how much power he would have outside of Horry County. He has gotten some endorsements though.”

Stickler took a lot of notes during the forum. He was disappointed that all the candidates expressed support for I-73, he said. He questions the validity of that project and the job creation numbers that have been tossed around in relation to the project.

At this point, he’s leaning toward voting for Tinubu “just because of my feminist inclinations.”

“I’m working on her to make sure she doesn’t go too far into the tank for I-73,” he added.

Michelle Randolph of Georgetown planned to vote for Brittain before the forum and that didn’t change after seeing the candidates share the floor. She thinks he was the winner of the night, she said.

“It was a close call between Mr. Brittain and Ms. Tinubu, but I definitely believe that Mr. Brittain came out on top,” she said. “I like that he’s down to earth, he’s knowledgeable, he’s not pretentious and he’s for the working class.”

That’s not to say Tinubu isn’t for the working class, she clarified, but “there’s an honesty and sincerity I see in Mr. Brittain that I don’t quite see in the other candidates,” she said.

Emily Aspel, another Georgetown resident, said her opinion was also unchanged by the forum. She’s backing Diggs and said she thinks he had the best showing on Monday.

She likes Tinubu too, but Diggs has the advantage as far as she’s concerned.

“I think he really has the core Democratic values and he really believes in doing things for people and moving the country forward,” she said.

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