With less than a month to go before the June 8 Primary election, candidates for the state's 1st Congressional District are using every chance they get to hammer home their key issues.
Six of the more than a dozen candidates for the seat used their time at the Myrtle Beach tea party debate Thursday night to highlight their key stances on immigration, cap and trade and taxes. Republicans Carroll Campbell III, Clark Parker, Larry Kobrovsky, Mark Lutz and Stovall Witte and Libertarian candidate Keith Blandford answered questions chosen at random by a moderator in an auditorium packed with passionate, and sometimes vocal political supporters.
Many of the candidates who could not attend sent campaign workers dressed in campaign gear to act as pamphleteers before the audience voted in a straw poll that included every candidate on the November ballot.
Some highlights of the debate included discussion of legislative procedure such as whether bills should be read in full on the House floor before votes, discussion of how to reform the federal education system, and discussion on whether the stimulus package has succeeded in creating jobs and if not how the candidates would act to create jobs in South Carolina.
Blandford said throughout his answers that the voters needed to learn what they could about monetary policy to guide the rest of their decisions. He said he was against the federal system that allows the government to print money without legislative approval because it devalues the savings and paychecks that everyday people earn.
Campbell highlighted his role in job creation and said he would fight for the infrastructure necessary to attract business such as bringing I-73 to South Carolina and making sure the Georgetown port was dredged properly. He said he would also encourage exploration of many forms of energy including nuclear power, which he said was the safest and most reliable source.
Kobrovsky hammered home his platform of constitutional responsibility with answers that highlighted whether governmental functions were provided for in the constitution. He said he would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and put the function of school standards and curriculum back in the hands of the states and "abolish" the Internal Revenue Service.
Parker used his opening remarks to remind the audience of mostly local voters that he was the only candidate who had been born and raised in Horry County. Throughout the night he also highlighted his plans to for cuts to federal spending and tax breaks for small businesses to help start job development and growth.
Lutz said he supported reading bills on the House floor, but got a round of audience support when he said he wanted bills to be posted online before they were introduced so that the public would have a chance to see them as well.
He also said he wants to have a scientific debate about carbon dioxide theories that have led to current cap and trade legislation that seeks to limit or tax companies on carbon emissions. Before the debate began, he passed out his action plan once in office, including massive cuts to spending.
Witte said he wanted to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education as well, "pulling it out by the roots." He also said that he supported the recently passed immigration reform in Arizona and would work to close the border.
Other Republicans running for the seat include Paul Thurmond, S.C. Rep. Tim Scott, and Katherine Jenerette - who is serving in the U.S. military and is prohibited from campaigning. Democrats running for the seat include Robert Burton and Ben Frasier. Robert Dobbs, who had previously campaigned as a Democrat, filed as a Green Party candidate.