COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina gubernatorial candidates Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett are questioning each others' votes on spending and bailout legislation in their last debates before Tuesday's runoff election.
The first debate Thursday on WORD-FM in Greenville was followed with a televised debate on WIS News 10.
With five days to go before runoff voting, Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett have their positions and talking points down pat. But the debate still managed to produce a couple of exchanges that veered off the beaten path. One of them was the result of a Barrett question to the front-running state representative who's been pushing for new rules on lawmaker income disclosure.
"Are all of your disclosures public?" Barrett asked Haley. "Have you left anything out? I understand there might be something with Wilbur Smith that was omitted and I just wanted to make sure everything was in there." Haley responded, "Everything was in there. We've always said that we would put everything out there. We have released our tax returns. Everyone has it. We have also released our funding disclosures for everyone. And I had no problem doing it. Everything's out there. Thank you."
Haley asked Barrett, a member of Congress, if he made a mistake supporting federal bank bailouts. He said it was the right thing to do to avoid a financial meltdown. Barrett asked Haley about voting in favor of five state budgets that increased state spending. Haley said what matters is everything she's done to fight wasteful spending.
Thursday's debates are crucial for Barrett. Haley nearly won the nomination outright with 49 percent of the vote to Barrett's 22 percent on June 8. He hopes to use the debates to close that gap. The winner of Tuesday's runoff will face Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen in November.
When it comes to experience, Barrett use to be a small business owner. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996, and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003.
Nikki Haley is an accountant and small businesswoman. She was elected as a state representative in 2004, and re-elected in 2006 and 2008.
On the issues, Barrett says job creation is the most important issue for South Carolina. He says he will create jobs by overhauling the department of commerce and providing a comprehensive tax and incentive reform that will reduce the tax burden.
Haley says economic development is the most important issue facing our next governor. She says she will reform the tax code by eliminating the small business income tax.
Barrett received two big endorsements last week. Former First lady Iris Campbell threw her support behind him, and so did former GOP gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov Andre Bauer.
Perhaps Haley's biggest endorsement came from Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Just last week former GOP gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster also endorsed her.