The remaining candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat faced off Thursday night in a debate that looked at their opinions on Grand Strand issues and what sets them apart.
State Rep. Tim Scott and Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond, who will compete in Tuesday's runoff election, participated in the debate sponsored by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association and the Grand Strand Business Association. The winner Tuesday will face Democrat Ben Frasier and several candidates from other parties in the Nov. 2 election.
The candidates, both from Charleston County, answered questions about how they would represent the Grand Strand and be a voice for the local community.
Scott responded by saying that as a state representative he has successfully served two disparate counties and will focus on connecting the entire district.
"We've got to connect our assets throughout the coast together," he said. "You'll see me in your streets as often as you'll see me in other parts of the district."
The key issues clearly are attracting tourists, I-73, storm water outfalls and dredging the Georgetown port, Scott said. He said he would not take federal government earmarks to help pay for those projects, because the earmark system is corrupt, wasteful and bloats spending.
"[The] earmark process drives us to the brink of bankruptcy, the earmark process, if it's not changed will bankrupt America," Scott said.
Thurmond said that he didn't know much about the issues on the Grand Strand before the campaign but that he has visited often.
"I've listened to the people here. I've made an effort to learn about Horry County," he said.
Thurmond said that he doesn't want South Carolina to be a donor state, giving more money to the federal government than it gets back. He said that I-73 is an important project and he supports taking Congressional money if it will move the project forward.
He said increased transparency and openness is necessary but he will work within the current system because it is what exists.
"I do not support any wasteful spending," Thurmond said. "...But when it comes to important investments, I cannot say I will sit aside."
The first tense moment of the debate came when both answered a question about push polling, which both Thurmond and Scott said they didn't support. Scott said the polls, which often use false information about candidates, are blasphemous and degrading and that he would never support them.
"To cast dispersions that we're doing push polling is ... really false," he said, locking eyes with Thurmond, who shook his head.
Scott said that if elected he would seek to be on the transportation and infrastructure committees and Thurmond said he would like to be on the transportation committee.
The debate included several question formats, including sections where the candidates asked each other questions.
With those questions, the subject turned primarily to their records while on Charleston County Council and the two had a back and forth about who raised fees or taxes and who was able to make change in Charleston County.
Both stopped short of calling the other a liar but tried to point out inconsistencies in voting records and accomplishments.
Thurmond several times told the audience of about 200 people to look at the differences between the candidates and their ability to get things done.
"The difference between him and I is I have been a conservative problem solver," Thurmond said. "I've been able to work with a 6-3 democratic majority and get the job done," Thurmond said.
Scott said that he has been able to push through more efficient government regulation and improved transparency while serving as a state representative and said his agenda looked more at national issues.
Scott said he supports an Arizona-like immigration policy and will focus on cutting back spending to create job growth.
"The insanity of spending in Washington is driving us to the brink of bankruptcy. We cannot afford it," he said. "In order for us to build and grow the economy the government needs to get out of the way."
Overall in last week's primary Scott finished first with 32 percent of the vote and Thurmond finished second with 16 percent of the vote. On the Grand Strand, Thurmond finished ahead of Scott, with 19 percent of the vote to Scott's 18 percent in Horry County and 21 percent to Scott's 19 percent in Georgetown County.