THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Government: Congressmen come and go, but Tom Keegan endures
By Jason Lesley
With three Congressmen in three years, residents of Waccamaw Neck couldn’t be blamed if they felt disconnected from their representative in Washington.
That’s hardly been the case, thanks to the Keegan factor.
Tom Keegan of Surfside Beach has represented Republicans Henry Brown, Tim Scott and Tom Rice in this area, providing continuity in an unusual time, Congressional change without political change.
Brown retired in 2010 and was replaced by Scott as the representative from the former 1st District that included a Republican-leaning strip along the coast in Georgetown County. When South Carolina received a seventh seat in the U.S. House after the 2010 Census, all of Georgetown County was moved to District 7, and Tom Rice was elected its representative. Scott was selected to replace Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate and resigned his seat in the House.
Keegan, a member of the state House for 16 years, is a reassuring presence at any business or political gathering in Georgetown or Horry counties that folks have their Congressman’s ear.
“I’m quite excited to be part of the team for Congressman Rice,” Keegan said. “My past experience and connections to different communities will be helpful in getting his message across.”
Keegan told members of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club last week that he expects good things from Rice.
“Congressman Rice has the interests of the United States at heart and the interests of his constituents close to his mind,” Keegan said. “I think he will be an outstanding member of the U.S. Congress, and it’s my great honor to be his field representative and a conduit to you and other Republicans and constituents in the 7th Congressional District.”
Keegan said Rice is opening an office in Myrtle Beach at the Founders Center and another in Florence. Jennifer Watson is district director and is putting together a team to work with constituents on issues of federal significance from Social Security to Medicare to veterans’ issues. Keegan, a former police chief in Greenwich, Conn., said he has an eye for honesty and sees it in Rice.
“I spent 26 years as a policeman,” Keegan said during an interview this week, “and one of the skills you develop is observation. You develop real skills that make you uniquely qualified to make evaluations. I’ve watched Tom Rice closely, and he is a man of high integrity. He’s got no hidden agendas. He means what he says.”
Jim Jerow, chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party, was happy to see Keegan join Rice’s staff.
“He knows the lay of the land,” Jerow said. “Tom Rice found someone with experience who has established himself in Horry and Georgetown and other counties that make up the 7th District.”
Keegan said Rice has been assigned to three committees: Transportation and Infrastructure, Budget and Small Business.
Rice has outlined some personal missions as part of those committees.
Keegan said Rice is a strong supporter of Interstate 73 and dredging the port in Georgetown. “He wants to see that both receive the same consideration as other projects,” Keegan said.
As a member of the Budget Committee, Rice has said he wants to reform spending with particular interest on Social Security and Medicare. “Young Americans are worried that these programs may not be there when they reach retirement age,” Keegan said.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to be on the Budget Committee, to use his experience and know-how to convince others that may not have that view to get on board and do something about this insane spending that the country seems to be consumed by.”
In Small Business, Rice wants to address the uncertainty regarding the true costs of hiring new employees, creating an environment that encourages job growth by addressing federal regulations. He also wants to address Obamacare and its cost to small business, Keegan said.
“Once things settle down after the inauguration,” Keegan said, “Congressman Rice will be able to move forward in a cooperative way to enact some of these reforms he’s talked about.”
Keegan said Rice feels the agreement on the “fiscal cliff” does not deal with the true economic crisis, America’s massive debt. “Until we get serious about entitlement reform and wasteful discretionary spending, Congress will not be able to address the national debt,” Rice said in a statement read by Keegan.
On gun control, Rice’s statement said, “I grew up around guns. My grandfather taught me to hunt. My father taught me to hunt. And I passed these skills on to my sons. I am in Washington to fight for your interests and rights, and that is exactly what I will do. It is also my duty as a U.S. Congressman to uphold the Constitution. I believe we must focus on the country’s mental health programs, school security and the presence of violence in the American culture.”
On Hurricane Sandy aid, Rice voted in favor of a resolution to pay out $9.7 billion to homeowners who had paid flood insurance premiums. He voted against another hurricane assistance bill of $50 billion because it contained non-emergency items such as a new weather satellite. Keegan said Rice supported a measure by Rep. Mick Mulvaney to offset hurricane relief for New Jersey with spending cuts.