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S.C. candidates take voters' questions in Horry County

Voters on Tuesday got their first chance, at the Carolina Patriots meeting, to hear from some Republican candidates for state and local office and to hear from some candidates who already have managed to criss-cross the state or county.

Candidates were given the chance to answer pre-screened questions, many of which focused on the economy, term limits, job creation and taxes. Voters got their first chance to hear both Republican candidates for Horry County Council chairman, District 5 Councilman Howard Barnard and tax attorney Tom Rice, spar over their visions for county government.

The questions for the council chairman candidates focused on how the two men would deal with growing unemployment, county debt and job creation. One question centered on the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., which recently asked the county for a three-year funding contract worth more than $1 million, and whether the candidates felt the organization had done an adequate job.

Barnard fielded the question first, saying he felt that the group had not done its best work in the past few years, but that other organizations also deserved some of the criticism. Barnard said he has asked the EDC to bring the Commerce Department and other state economic developmentagencies to take job tours through Horry County.

"I think we need to set simple goals; we need four new businesses and 800 new jobs this year," he said. "I've said this before, [they're] trying to hit home runs when [they] should be hitting singles. ... We need to work at it hard when the No. 1 employer in the county is the school district, No. 2 is Wal-Mart and No. 3 is the county government. We need to work harder."

Rice said jobs should be a top priority for the county and said he believed the EDC and the county could be working harder to help create them.

"We live in a great place with a high quality of life, pretty good schools. ... Why can't we being people and companies in?" he asked.

"We spent $40 or $50 million to build a new prison ... but we can't spend $500,000 to fund the [EDC]? That's a program that keeps people out of prison."

The group got a chance to ask questions of five of the nine Republican candidates for the 1st U.S. Congressional District, including Ken Glasson, Larry Kobrovsky, Mark Lutz, Clark Parker and Paul Thurmond. The group's questions focused on larger economic policies such as congressional earmarks, the fair tax and cap and trade, as well as if the group would be willing to support term limits.

Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Glasson said he would commit to a 10-year term limit. Kobrovsky, a former Charleston School Board member, said he would commit to a six-year term limit and then not running for another office. Mount Pleasant businessman Mark Lutz said he would support that all federal elected officials submit to three two-year terms in the House and one six-year term in the Senate.

Parker, an Horry County accountant, said he would submit to three terms in Congress. Thurmond, a Charleston County Councilman, said he would work for legislation to enact a solid term limit, but if it didn't pass, he would not submit to a personal term limit.

Voters also heard from S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley, who is running for governor; S.C. Rep. Thad Viers, who's running for re-election, state superintendent of education candidate Kelly Payne, and Horry County school board candidates Karen McIlrath, running for District 2, and Joe DeFeo running for re-election to District 3.