FMU hosts Republican primary debate

Lindsay Buchanan, Senior Writer

Creating jobs and developing long-term economic growth in South Carolina were the two main topics at a GOP gubernatorial debate held at FMU before the June primaries.

In conjunction with WBTW News 13,, Florence Morning News, and Coastal Carolina University, FMU hosted one of the final gubernatorial primary debates on June 1 in the McNair Auditorium. Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley, and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster were all on hand to answer questions from a panel as well as questions sent in through WBTW’s “Voice of the Voter” project.

Coastal Carolina hosted the Democratic candidates, S.C. Sen. Robert Ford, S.C. Superintendent of Education Dr. Jim Rex and S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen on June 3 at their campus. Bob Juback, anchor for News 13, moderated both hour long events which aired live on News 13,, and C-SPAN (national cable network).

The primaries, which were held on June 8, resulted in a run-off election between Republicans Barrett and Haley. Haley, who won the support of such big named backers as Sarah Palin despite much negative media coverage, won the run-off election on June 22. Haley will face Sheheen, who won the Democratic primary, in the Nov. 22 election.

During the debate the potential candidates did their best to tackle the tough issues of job and economic growth. Each was given time to share with the viewers how they would turn around the state if elected. The recent economic downfall across the nation and particularly in our state gave the candidates plenty to talk about. While all four candidates agreed that it was vital to make changes in the direction our state has taken in the last few years, each had different ideas for how to make that happen.

The first candidate to give his response was Bauer. He focused on telling the audience how important it was to make the state more attractive to outside companies. According to Bauer, it is important for leaders in South Carolina to sit down with prospective incoming businesses and form a personal relationship with them. By creating a level of comfort first, Bauer believes that leaders can then show business men and women what the state has to offer.

Barrett spoke primarily on the importance of creating a stronger infrastructure in the state which he said would help attract outside businesses and create jobs. According to Barrett, the number one priority in South Carolina right now should be starting construction on the proposed I-73 corridor. He also focused on improvements at ports and further development of nuclear reactors as part of his plan to turn the state around.

McMaster’s plan for job and economic growth focused on many different areas including work on a deep water port, working together with farmers and promoting tourism. According to McMaster, South Carolina tourism should be viewed as a completely separate industry and should garner just as much, if not more, attention than other job creators.

Education and budget reform topped the list for Haley as she told the audience how an improvement in each of these areas was vital to moving South Carolina forward. According to Haley, what our state lacks is a skilled work force. By strengthening our technical schools and ensuring that all schools across the state manage their budgets properly, she believes that we will create a workforce that will bring in businesses to the state. Haley told the viewers that the first thing she would do as governor is audit every single program and agency to eliminate unneeded spending.

The one topic that brought a unified response from the candidates was gambling. There has been some support around the state for legalizing gambling as a way to bring much needed money to areas hurting from the economic downfall. Despite this support, each of the four Republican candidates, as well as two Democratic candidates, were adamant when they replied that South Carolina should not compromise its current law in order to bring in jobs through gambling.