Horry County Council chairman candidates take part in lunchtime debate

03/05/2013 2:12 PM

03/05/2013 2:14 PM

Sav-R-Cats’ public luncheon and debate Wednesday between the five Republican candidates running for the Horry County Council chairman seat had an early jab, but quickly evolved into a lively discussion on a number of topics that ran the gamut from local job creation to the hopefuls’ favorite pets.

Republican candidates Al Allen, Liz Gilland, Debbie Harwell, Mark Lazarus and Fonzie Lewis all attended the almost 90-minute question and answer session. Some questions were posed by the moderator, others were from the more than 50 people in attendance at the Omega Pancake and Omelette House in Myrtle Beach.

It was the latest public appearance by the five hopefuls ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. The winner of that contest likely is a safe bet to be the ultimate victor of the April 30 general election, since there are no Democratic challengers.

At the start of the debate, Allen and Lewis made references to the so-called “good ol’ boys system,” a group of haves who supposedly control all decisions made in a government or community.

“The Horry County I live in has plenty of good ol’ boys in it,” Lewis said.

Allen followed by saying he knows about the good ol’ boys system because he fought them on the Aynor Overpass, the controversial bridge over U.S. 501 that critics said should have been placed in a more heavily-traveled area of the county such as Carolina Forest.

There was no indication whether the good ol’ boys comments were directed toward a specific candidate.

Lazarus redirected the conversation by saying Horry County has a number of issues that should be discussed.

Gilland sounded off on the county’s trash regulation ordinance, a law requiring all waste generated in Horry County to be dumped in the local landfill. She said the law, which currently is threatened by proposed legislation being discussed in the state legislature, is good for Horry County.

Allen joked that he must be “drinking the Kool-Aid” he found himself agreeing with his opponent.

It wasn’t the only time the candidates were cordial to one another.

A questioner asked Lewis how he thought Allen was doing as a County Council member, to which he responded the Aynor resident has done a good job.

Lewis said the Aynor Overpass isn’t where it should be, but he said that was due to a pure lack of leadership that took place before Allen came on council.

In what could be viewed as an ironic accident, Lewis knocked over Allen’s drink while going back to his seat after the remarks.

On economic development, Harwell said she believes the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation should only get credit for job creation after a company commits to locating in Horry County and then starts construction on its facility.

Lazarus said he believes in giving businesses a timeframe, upon completion of an agreement, to come into Horry County and turn any promised jobs into paid employees who fill out W2s. If the company doesn’t meet that timeframe, he added, the county revokes any incentives.

While most of the questions dealt with the needs of Horry County, they weren’t all issue-focused.

In perhaps the afternoon’s most interesting question, all five candidates were asked who of their challengers they’d vote for if they weren’t running.

Lazarus and Harwell said everyone’s heart is in the right place, and neither could pick one. Allen said he’d have to wait until the last debate to make his decision. Gilland said voting is a private right and she wouldn’t reveal her choice.

Only Lewis gave a name, saying he’d go with Lazarus.

And since Wednesday’s debate was sponsored by Sav-R-Cats, all five candidates were asked about their favorite animals.

All own either dogs or cats. Harwell also talked about the rabbits and horses she and her husband have raised.

Allen, however, let the audience know where he drew the line when it comes to pet ownership.

“I don’t do snakes and a I don’t do lizards,” Allen said to a laughing audience.

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