Six of the candidates running for South Carolina governor, including current Gov. Henry McMaster, appeared together at the Hilton Hotel in the Vista Wednesday evening and took questions as part of a small forum for AARP volunteers.
Each candidate was afforded 15 minutes to give a quick biography, lay out their priorities, and address a variety of topics facing our state.
The one-on-one question and answer interview session was hosted by the South Carolina chapter of AARP. Teresa Arnold, state director for AARP South Carolina, moderated the event.
The candidates answered questions related to issues facing seniors, including saving for retirement, protecting vulnerable adults, and making sure utility rates are affordable.
McMaster was first to take the stage and touted his proposed state income tax cuts.
"My income tax cut would be worth $2.2 billion over a 5-year period on everybody's income. And then you have in addition to that, if you're retired military, you pay no income tax on that. We have to have a government that's responsive to the people," McMaster said.
Another Republican, Former Lt. Governor Yancey McGill, followed McMaster.
"It's easy to talk about taxation," McGill said. "It's easy to talk about borrowing money, but you've got to pay that money back. And if you're going to tax somebody, you're going to go back again."
Much of the discussion centered on how to remedy the VC Summer Nuclear debacle. The defunct nuclear project in Newberry County cost electric rate payers billions of dollars over the course of several years, before it's abrupt abandonment last summer. SCE&G ratepayers continue to pay a surcharge for the failed project, in large part because of the controversial Base Load Review Act, passed in the State Legislature. That legislation allows public utility companies to charge customers for future projects. Several candidates spoke about their desire to repeal the measure.
When asked about the failed project, Democrat businessman Phil Noble of Charleston said he would press for immediate action as governor.
"I want to fire the whole board of Santee Cooper on the first day I'm in office," Noble said. "If we hustle, we will get it done by lunch. I want everyone of them gone, and the basic policy is two-fold in my judgment. We want our money back -- all of it. And people need to go to jail."
The line drew enthusiastic applause from the otherwise quiet crowd.
Democratic State Rep. James Smith followed up.
"I'm going to take the energy office in our state and I'm going to put it at the cabinet level to sit right next to me as governor and we're gonna focus on our energy future," Smith said. "We're going to involve renewable energy and wind, and we are going to bring our energy rates down."
The third democratic candidate, Marguerite Willis, was not at the event. Willis is a 67-year-old attorney. It's her first run for office.
Other Republicans running each vowed to crack down on corruption in the State House and deliver for the people of South Carolina.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant summarized his political philosophy.
"Very simply -- promoting your liberty, protecting your wallet. We have chosen a theme of this campaign as integrity," Bryant said. "We need to restore integrity in your government."
Republican Catherine Templeton reminded voters of her experience working alongside former Gov. Nikki Haley.
"When Gov. Haley became governor, do you remember what she used to say? 'It's a great day and South Carolina.' I was one of the first people that she asked to help make it a great day in South Carolina. And you know politicians tell you they're going to shrink government, they're going to do more for you, they're going to deregulate," Templeton said. "We actually did it."
Both the Republican and Democratic statewide gubernatorial primaries are set for June 12.
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