COLUMBIA — The four Republicans who want to become South Carolina’s last elected lieutenant governor all gave wide-ranging visions at a debate Thursday of what they want to do if elected to the state’s No. 2 position.
But whether they can implement those ideas isn’t quite as clear.
The lieutenant governor has three jobs in South Carolina. He is constitutionally mandated to preside over the state Senate and to take over for the governor if needed. Lawmakers have put the state’s Office on Aging under his supervision. Beyond that, the $46,545 part-time job doesn’t have any other responsibilities.
All four candidates pledged to use vouchers to pay for trained workers who could help seniors and give a break to other caregivers in the home. They also pledged to provide more information about health care, estate planning and other services to seniors online and over the phone.
Each candidate – Mike Campbell, the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell, along with Kiawah Island developer Pat McKinney, former state attorney general Henry McMaster and retired Army chaplain Ray Moore vowed to support Republican Gov. Nikki Haley if she is re-elected.
The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will face Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers in the fall.
This is the last year South Carolina voters will choose a lieutenant governor. Starting in 2018, candidates for governor will choose who they want as their lieutenant governor and run on the same ticket.
While Campbell talked about how he would concentrate most of his time running the Office on Aging, the other three candidates have grander visions of what the lieutenant governor can do.
“Well, we do have four years,” McMaster told the moderator during a question about how anyone can make the office relevant.
McMaster, who also has severed as U.S. Attorney in South Carolina and as head of the state Republican Party, said there is no limit under law on what the lieutenant governor can do. “I would use the position as one of strong advocacy for small business, for the Office On Aging,” McMaster said. “There’s no limit on what the lieutenant governor can do if he has experience and knows how to get things done.”
McKinney said he can get taxes lowered and reduce government regulations by being an advocate for Haley’s policies.
McKinney said he wants “to simply raise the bar of expectations about what we can and should expect out of a lieutenant governor so in four years when they start running on the same ticket we'll have a different perspective on the office.”
Moore said he sees this as a symbolic election about whether South Carolina is a Christian state. He wants to grow private Christian schools and stop supporting what he called the “leftist-controlled state-run public school system.”
“I think the votes would have a chance if they support me in this race to express an opinion about traditional values, about our Judeo-Christian heritage, about the future of our children and the future of our educational system,” Moore said.
All four candidates promised to help Haley in any way they could. McMaster and McKinney couldn’t think of any issue where they disagreed with the governor.
“You expect No. 2 not to do anything that would publicly go against No. 1,” McKinney said.
Campbell said he thinks highly of Haley and is proud she had emphasized economic development like his father did when he was governor.
“I’m not going to necessarily pretend to tell her how to do her job as governor,” Campbell said. “I’m going to stick to my job as lieutenant governor and focus on my responsibility to the seniors.”
Moore said he prays for Haley and will be at her disposal. “But I must say I am not happy with the Republican party, and even the governor’s office and particularly with the churches and the slowness for us to move to a solid, private Christian homeschool system,” he said.
But what if an upset happens?
There is no guarantee Haley will be governor. Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen is running against her in a rematch of the 2010 race. So the candidates were asked what they would do if they found themselves serving with a Democratic governor.
Campbell said he would do what his father did with his Democratic lieutenant governor. “They politely disagreed and said their position, but they had a good working relationship,” Campbell said.
Moore said he would work with Sheheen on the few things he was right on. “I would offer an alternative voice for traditional values,” Moore said.
McMaster said Haley is the only right choice for governor. But he also called Sheheen a friend. “You have to work in the office to do whatever is necessary to help the people,” McMaster said.
McKinney said he will do everything he can to return Haley to office. But if Sheheen wins, “as a businessman, I’ve worked with a lot of diverse people throughout my life.”
“I’m sure we could work together.”