Democratic candidates say they would keep MOX plant open, support veterans

Two Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Tim Scott said Thursday they support keeping Aiken’s MOX plant open and will fight for veterans.

“I would not do anything to halt it,” said Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, citing her support for jobs and the plant’s impact in stimulating the S.C. economy.

Harold Pavilack, a lawyer from the Myrtle Beach area, said he would fight to keep going the as-yet-unopened MOX plant, intended to convert weapons-grade uranium into fuel for nuclear-power plants, because getting rid of nuclear waste is a problem and he supports jobs.

The Democratic candidates – who agree with Scott on the MOX plant and disagree with the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama – are vying for the unexpired term of former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Scott, then a congressman, to fill that vacancy. A third Democratic candidate, Sidney Moore, was not at the debate, citing a previous commitment.

Dickerson, whose husband is a veteran, said the needs of veterans are her “heartbeat.”

Referring to the ongoing scandal about treatment delays at Veterans Administration hospitals, she said someone needs to be accountable for the conditions veterans have been exposed to. “I will fight for my vets every step of the way.”

If elected, Pavilack said he will do anything he can for veterans, even if it means adding to the country’s $17.5 billion national debt.

(Scott called Thursday for the VA’s chief to resign.)

Pavilack also said he supports more U.S. borrowing to send students to college.

“I’m a big believer in education,” Pavilack said, citing his education at Clemson University, the University of South Carolina School of Law and a technical college in Miami. “If we don’t get our people to college, we can’t keep up with the rest of the world.”

Dickerson said she favors incentive programs that allow students to lower their college debt.

After working as a cosmetologist, Dickerson went to Midlands Technical College and Benedict College. “That was just a great stepping stone for me ... to get out of the hair business and to go into a higher calling,” Dickerson said.

While they have raised little money and Scott has almost $4 million on hand to spend, both Democrats said they are prepared to face Scott, who faces a weak challenger in June’s GOP primary.

Pavilack said Scott is vulnerable, calling him a follower.

“We need a leader,” he said. “We need somebody to jump in the mix.”

Dickerson agreed Scott is vulnerable, adding South Carolina needs a woman in Congress.

“It is time for the people and the citizens of South Carolina to look at a strong, a bold, a courageous woman who is not afraid to take on Tim Scott,” Dickerson said.