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Rookie takes on veteran for South Strand House seat

The Republican primary battle for the South Strand S.C. House seat pits incumbent Nelson Hardwick against political newcomer Mande Wilkes.

Hardwick, an Horry County native, has been the District 106 representative since his election in 2004. A businessman who owns an engineering firm, Hardwick currently serves on the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs committees.

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Wilkes is also a lifelong resident with a background in law and business. Her name has become known outside the area as a blogger on, a political website run by former gubernatorial spokesman Will Folks.

We asked the candidates their views and intentions if elected on issues that will have a significant impact on the state in general and on the Grand Strand.

Question | There has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about accountability and transparency in government. How do you, personally and specifically, plan to promote and uphold those goals?

Hardwick | I have and will continue to vote for more accountability and transparency at all levels of government. Most recently, I voted to pass House Bill 3047, which requires roll-call voting on important issues before the state legislature.

Wilkes | Elected officials must be accountable to the people. Accountability and transparency are absolutely essential features of any democracy. When elected, I will fight for the passage of House Bill 3047, which will put an end to anonymous voting and which will finally make officials accountable to the people.

Q. | The education budgets have gotten slimmer every year. What will you do specifically to help make sure Grand Strand students get quality, well-rounded education?

Hardwick | I have and will continue to vote to remove restrictions on the use of state education funds, which will allow our locally elected school board members to utilize these funds as they determine are most advantageous to our students. I continue to work with other representatives to fund local districts on a per-child basis and reward districts that are good stewards of our money and children.

Wilkes | Quite simply, we must get money out of the hands of "educrat" lobbyists and put that money directly into our classrooms. Right now, educrat lobbyists are pushing their own special interests, and consequently our children are being robbed of a quality education. Beyond that, I will fight for school choice, parental rights and home-school families.

Q. | The Grand Strand depends on tourism for its well-being. What are your specific plans for helping diversify and grow the tourism industry here?

Hardwick | Work closely with our local political leaders, chambers of commerce both at the state level and locally to encourage new business to locate in Horry County and continue to reduce regulations that discourage business from locating in our state.

Wilkes | Promoting pro-business policies is the most effective way to bring jobs and growth to the Grand Strand. When elected, I will fight to ease the corporate tax burden so that our local economy can thrive. Beyond that, quality education is the key to diversifying our economy. Skilled, educated workers bring diversified business prospects to the Grand Strand, and diversification is the key to economic security.

Q. | Where do you stand on oil drilling off the S.C. coast? Has the Gulf of Mexico disaster influenced your thinking on the issue?

Hardwick | I have supported an all-of-the-above approach to reaching energy independence. We can't continue importing energy from countries that support our enemies. Just like the sinking of the Titanic almost 100 years ago caused everyone to rethink the safety practices of cruise ships, the unbelievable disaster in the Gulf will require that we rethink the risk and requirements for any future offshore drilling anywhere, especially our coastline. Without our seashore, we have no economy.

Wilkes | This issue marks the intersection of national security, economic security and environmental security. We must explore every available avenue to ease our dependence on foreign oil without sacrificing environmental stewardship. The Gulf of Mexico disaster is a timely reminder that we must seek safe and sound energy alternatives.

Q. | Do you think S.C. should adopt an Arizona-style stand on illegal immigration? Why or why not?

Hardwick | Yes. I don't understand what the people in Washington, D.C., don't understand about the word "illegal." If the federal government will not act to protect its citizens from adverse effects of illegal people within our borders, our state must do it.

Wilkes | The lack of immigration enforcement has risked South Carolina's safety and economic security. Since the federal government refuses to enforce immigrations laws, individual states have been put in the unfortunate position of enforcement. We must insist that the federal government enforce national immigration laws. Until that happens, our state's safety and security depends on us doing what we must to control and contain illegal immigration.

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