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Forum sows GOP message in Conway

Republican candidates, staffers and supporters packed the Peanut Warehouse in Conway on Monday night for the annual GOP forum and rally.

Local, regional, state and national candidates took turns on the warehouse's front porch, addressing the hundreds of people enjoying a cool evening, grilled food and a bluegrass band.

Horry County Council chairman candidate Tom Rice told the crowd he has years of experience as a tax attorney and could help with budgeting. His opponent, Councilman Howard Barnard, simply welcomed people and thanked them for coming, and re-introduced himself.

Rep. Thad Viers, who event organizer and former party Chairman Robert Rabon called "a work in progress," said Republicans believe in individual freedom, less taxes and less government.

"I try to keep to the principles Ronald Reagan established for this nation," Viers said.

Nine candidates for the 1st District congressional seat spoke, some through surrogates.

Candidate Carroll Campbell III railed against "crazy spending" going on in Washington and said the country needs to take a business approach to running the government.

Ken Glasson said God had blessed him in ways he has not blessed other candidates, and that he can "save" the country from becoming a "sinking ship." He said he has Sarah Palin's endorsement, military experience and tenacity.

Larry Kobrovsky said he is running to save the Constitution and that if he were in Congress, he would pass a bill to shut down Harvard because President Obama's nominee announced today was the dean of the law school there and had forbidden the military from recruiting on campus. He is for prayer in school, as well.

Mark Lutz told the crowd he has written a "Citizen's Contract with America," calling for shrinking the government by 5 percent a year, a flat tax, term limits, and no bills longer than 10 pages in Congress.

Clark Parker said he supports small business and fiscal control, and said he stands for family values.

Tim Scott got the crowd to cheer when he called "Obamacare" a "monstrosity." He said he is also for a flat tax, and said he'd like to see South Carolina model its immigration policy after Arizona's new and controversial illegal immigration law aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants.

Paul Thurmond couldn't be there, but his mother, Nancy Thurmond, spoke for him, telling the crowd about her son's integrity and willingness to be the voice for the area in Congress.

Inside, while the line for dinner circled the entire inside of the warehouse and children got their faces painted and ate cotton candy, a group of volunteers counted straw-poll ballots that were cast by attendees for $1 each. The counters had a lot of work left ahead of them as people continued to seek the ballot box even as the candidates began to speak.

Many of the area's GOP notables were on hand, such as Horry County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland, Myrtle Beach City Council members Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board Chairman Brant Branham, and party activists Mary Henry and John Bonsignor. There were some newcomers, too, such as Katharine Huff, from the Allsbrook area.

"This is my first time doing this," she said. "I came to listen, and I'm keeping an open mind. I'm starting a business, and I want to find out who's going to be most supportive."

She said she had met several politicians and shaken their hands but was eager to hear their speeches, too.

She said she plans to hear what Democrats and tea party members have to say, too, before she chooses whom to support. "I'm just trying to learn about all the candidates," she said.

Gubernatorial candidates such as Andre Bauer and Henry McMaster got the chance to meet people one-on-one, shake hands and speak to the media, and everyone got a chance to take the stage and try to drum up support.

The beautiful weather kept many people outside, sitting on the lawn in chairs or around tables under tents as they cheered and listened to the speakers, but they also found room to sit inside, where they could hear the political speeches over a stereo system. Everyone who wanted more information could pick up fliers, leaflets and brochures, and even occasional tasty reminders of the candidates, such as the Rice Krispy treats given out by candidate Rice, or candidate Parker's free cookies.

But some people attending already knew who they wanted in office.

Ron Teague of Conway said he came out just to support Parker.

"He has been my accountant for 30 years," Teague said, "and I've never had a complaint with him. He's making big sacrifices to do this, and we need him as much as he needs us."

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