FEATURE ‌ Jobs, Schools, Health care, Yada-yada-yada 

Issues highlight choices in November

There's a bit of yin and yang to elections. It's our duty to vote, it's the politicians' duty to give us those clever turns of phrase that inspire us and send us to the polls. Unfortunately, it's more often the case that our practice is not to vote and the politician's role is not to bore us as much as the other guy. Here's a look at some of the more interesting statewide races and the sometimes boring, occasionally inspiring views of the candidates.

Mark Sanford vs. Sen. Tommy Moore

Let's be honest: With Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's 12 years in politics and Democrat Tommy Moore's 28, neither of these candidates are outsiders to the politics in Columbia. They both want to improve education and health care and foster economic development. Sanford prides himself on improving government efficiency and trimming tax bills while Moore says not much has changed over the last four years except for an increase in the unemployment and shortages in programs that need support the most.

After pushing through income tax reform during his first term, Sanford sees further income tax reductions as one of the best ways to encourage business development in South Carolina.

Sanford's campaign touts tort legislation approved under his watch, but he notes that more work is needed, including workers compensation reforms.

After a failed attempt at vouchers for students that transfer to private schools, Sanford switched it up to give parents an income tax credit for sending their children to private schools. It still didn't receive the support it needed in a legislature concerned about sending money out of the public school system, but Sanford continues to support school choice, be it public or private.

Sanford also supports merit pay for teachers and education funding that lets local districts decide how best to spend state funding.

Sanford continues to push for restructuring to improve government efficiency, most notably in removing the majority of the elected offices you'll see below and making them governor appointments.

With South Carolina ranked second in unemployment in the country, Moore, a long-time state senator, is critical of the governor's past cuts in Commerce Department funding and questions the department's recent election-year increases.

"More people are unemployed now than were unemployed four years ago," Moore says, noting he would increase Commerce Department funding to help lure industry.

Moore also supports expanding the Charleston port as well as clearing up the dispute between the State Ports Authority and Jasper County over a deep-water shipping terminal on the Savannah River that could provide thousands of jobs in the Lowcountry.

"We need to expand the ports not at the exclusion of each other and not in some turf-war fighting game of pushing and shoving," Moore says.

Moore is also looking to invest in rural South Carolina.

"You've got to create a rural infrastructure bank so that water, sewer, and high-tech connectivity come into play," he says.

Comprehensive tax reform is also necessary, Moore says.

"We've got to take a look at our entire tax structure, including exemptions," Moore says. "Each exemption needs to rise and fall on its own justification."

Moore supports early childhood education statewide and he sees other education reforms coming from innovations practiced in the classroom.

His health care initiatives provide the most details, including increasing the number of children in low-income families assisted through the state health insurance program by 65,000 and helping small business owners provide employee health insurance.

"There are 106,000 small businesses and only 20 percent provide health care insurance to their employees," he says.

Moore would pay for these and other health care reforms by increasing the state's cigarette tax, the lowest in the country.

"I'm not just willing to say what we need to do," he says. "I'm going to tell you how to do it."

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Mark Sanford (R) (Incumbent)
Age: 46 Residence: Sullivan's Island Family: married, four children Education: B.A. in business, Furman University; M.B.A. from the University of Virginia Job: Governor Political Experience: Governor 2002-present; U.S. House of Rep. 92-00 Website: www.sanfordforgovernor.com




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Tommy Moore (D)
Age: 56 Residence: Clearwater Family: Married, two children, two grandchildren Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina, Aiken Job: Business owner Political Experience: State House of Representatives, 78-80; State Senate, 80-present Website: www.tommymoore2006.com



Andre Bauer vs. Robert Barber

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a Republican, is looking to run on his record, not on the speeding and plane mishaps that threatened to sideline his primary race. Taking on management of the state's Council on Aging, he notes that the office has improved efficiency by utilizing competitive procurement practices, for example, and increased in-home visits to seniors to catch small problems before they become a health crisis. He's also increased the number of ombudsman in the state to the national average.

As president of the Senate, Bauer notes he has voted down every tax increase.

With only 2 percent of people in the state with long-term health insurance, Bauer says a priority in his second term will be to encourage more seniors to take up long-term coverage by offering tax credits.

"That way we won't have to fund (hospital visits and medical care) as taxpayers," he says.

He'll also look to increase the number of geriatric physicians in the state.

As for suggestions to expand the role of the lieutenant governor, a part-time position, Bauer notes there's already been talk of putting affordable housing oversight into his office and says that he's swamped as it is.

"I don't know where they'd find the time," he says. "I don't know how you can take on any more."

Local restaurateur and former legislator and lobbyist Robert Barber, a Democrat, is campaigning on just such a promise to get his hand into more pots – particularly economic development.

"The office has an awful lot of potential," he says, noting he'll be an ambassador for job creation in South Carolina. "As long as we're number two in unemployment in the country, I'll consider it a full-time job."

That will include working with communities to recognize job needs and to prepare students for the workforce. Barber says he'll also look to improve the Council on Aging and hopes to provide more resources to seniors to let them stay in their homes longer instead of moving into nursing homes.

"I'm a hard worker, spiritual, fiscally responsible, compassionate, and respectful of the law and I've got common sense," he says. "I'll take that perspective to Columbia."

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Andre Bauer (R) (Incumbent)
Age: 37 Residence: Charleston Family: None Education: BS from USC Job: Businessman Political Experience: S.C. House of Representatives 1997-1999; State Senate 1999-2002; Lt. Governor 2003-present. Website: www.andrebauer.com





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Robert Barber (D)
Age: 57 Residence: Folly Beach Family: Wife, two children, two grandchildren Education: BA from Wofford College; Masters of Divinity from Duke University; JD from the South Texas College of Law Job: Restaurant owner Political Experience: Charleston County School Board, 84-88; State House of Representatives, 89-94 Website: www.robertbarber2006.com


Hugh Weathers vs. Emile DeFelice

Tourism seems to be the cat's meow on the coast, but South Carolina's second largest industry is agriculture. Republican Hugh Weathers, the incumbent agriculture commissioner, touts broad industry support while his opponent, a self-made farmer, says he speaks more to the average farmer's needs.

Appointed by Sanford following the exit of Republican Charlie Sharp over a money-laundering scandal, Weathers says he has restored farmers' faith in the office. A hand-out for Weather's campaign tells voters to "ask a farmer" if they want to know who to support.

"For any initiatives to take hold, you've got to have the support of farmers throughout the state," Weathers says.

A strong proponent of using crops for alternative energy, Weathers says he is also looking for other nontraditional uses for crops.

"It can give farmers a new market," he says.

The commissioner is also looking to attract local manufacturing or cooperative distributions for farmers. Currently, produce sold in the grocery store only sends 18 cents on the dollar back to the farmer.

"We want to get farmers a better share of the retail value of their crops," he says.

Another issue for Weathers is the protection of farmlands threatened by development, a particularly pressing issue for Lowcountry residents, as once remote farms on Johns Island prepare for new neighbors with the planned extension of U.S. 526 to James Island.

"Very good tomato farms are now growing houses," Weathers says.

Democrat Emile DeFelice is a self-made farmer, starting with a small garden in his backyard that's grown into a more than 100-acre operation in Calhoun County. Throwing his hat into the ring, DeFelice has also been calling on South Carolinians to throw a little of the state on their plate because less than 5 percent of the food we eat in South Carolina comes from inside the state.

"It's a way for South Carolina to invest in itself," he says, noting that millions of public school meals could be a good first start.

DeFelice says securing and fostering the state's agriculture would be a plus in selling the state's quality of life for both transplants and tourists.

"People come to Charleston to eat," he says. "That's a crystal-clear way to show how food impacts tourism."

Though he supports seeking out alternative energy through agriculture, DeFelice says he's worried the lure of corn and soybean crops for alternative energy will pit food production against fuel production. It's better to look at methane and other forms of waste, he says.

"We have to exploit all of our wasted energy first," he says. "The point of alternative energy is not to waste that, too."

DeFelice says he'll lead the department with a focus on fostering new soil farmers and supporting "farmers of the sea" netting shrimp and other coastal catch.

"We don't have a place for the next generation of farmers," he says. "If we want agriculture in the state in the next 20 years, we have to start now."

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Hugh Weathers (R) (Incumbent)
Age: 50 Residence: Bowman Family: Wife, three sons Education: Grad BS Accounting, BS Finance from University of South Carolina Job: Co-owner Weathers Farms Political Experience: Appointed commissioner in 2004 Website: www.hughweathers.com





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Emile Defelice (D)
Age: 39 Residence: Columbia Family: Married, two children Education: Degrees from Emory University and USC in philosophy, French, and government Job: Farmer Political Experience: None Website: www.e4ag.com



Karen Floyd vs. Jim Rex

Inez Tenenbaum is only one of two Democrats in statewide elected office and she’s on the way out the door, providing the only open race on the statewide ballot. Both candidates are calling for education reforms, but Democrat Jim Rex sums up the race — tuition tax credits for private schools. He’s opposed to the idea while Republican Karen Floyd openly embraces what’s been a mostly Republican effort.

“This isn’t a Pepsi-Cola or Coca-Cola choice,” Rex says. “The outcome will make a big difference.”

But there’s another sharp difference. Floyd is a lawyer turned public relations whiz focused on conservative reforms while Rex is an educator of more than 30 years who’s held every position from football coach to college administrator.

The issue of school choice has evolved as more Democrats, including Floyd’s opponent, support more public school choices for students. The sticking point is the insistence by Floyd and others that the choices include reimbursements for sending students to private schools.

For South Carolina’s public schools, Floyd recommends improving the state’s Palmetto Achievement Test to form a structure with clear direction on how to improve student performance year-to-year.

Floyd supports introducing private management firms for struggling schools. The program would keep oversight with the local school district, but hold the firm accountable for programs and student achievement. Under the plan, districts that still cannot make progress will be taken over by the state.

Violence in schools has received particular attention this fall with national tragedies and local threats. Floyd sees the potential to improve safety in schools by recognizing students for good behavior. Strict standards on attendance, renewed focus on activities and reading instruction, and early intervention by trained teachers would also help.

Rex says slow and steady is not winning the race for South Carolina’s schools.

“We’re getting better, but so is every other state,” he says. “Incremental improvements aren’t getting us where we need to be.”

Reforms start with embracing innovation, something Rex says is “happening mostly in spite of the state, not because of it.”

An innovation that tops Rex’s campaign is the concept of “learning communities.”

As a football coach, he recognized that the coaches worked as a team and were invested in their students over several years with the help of parents serving as a booster team.

“We won together and we lost together,” he says, noting the same sense of community and long-term investment can be made in the classroom.

Rex says the state also needs to offer more public school choices, including fostering charter schools, and reduce the number of tests students are required to take to the bare minimum necessary to evaluate performance and monitor progress.

“Tests are tools, but they shouldn’t be dominating the lives of the students and the teachers,” he says.

Noting teachers have often been the fall-guy in criticism of schools, Rex says the state needs to elevate teachers, including rewarding teachers based on student outcomes.

“(The profession) is not attracting the quality or the quantity that we need,” he says.

Early education is also a priority, Rex says, along with repairing the disparities recognized in rural schools like those on the Interstate 95 corridor highlighted in the documentary Corridor of Shame.

“That’s dragging our state down,” he says. “We have to address it.”

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Karen Floyd (R)
Age: 44 Residence: Spartanburg Family: Married, two children Education: Bachelors of arts from Goucher College, law degree from the University of South Carolina Job: Marketing firm CEO and founder Political Experience: Spartanburg County Council 1999-2003 Website: www.karenfloyd2006.com



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Jim Rex (D)
Age: 64 Residence: Lake Wateree Family: Wife, four children Education: B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of Toledo Job: Retired educator Political Experience: None Website: www.jimrex.com




Also running:
Tony Fayyazi (Ind.) (www.tonyfayyazi2006.com)
Arnold Karr (Green)
Tim Moultrie(Lib.) (www.supered.org)
Ralph Lindblad (Const.) (www.scconstitutionparty.com/Candidates.aspx)


Grady Patterson vs. Thomas Ravenel

In Republican-leaning South Carolina, you’d think Thomas Ravenel could just walk right in to the Treasurer’s office, but with 36 years as treasurer, it’s clear Grady Patterson has more going for him than the “D” beside his name.

Patterson notes a record of fiscal responsibility including fighting for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, creating a program for parents to save for college tuition, and developing a state reserve fund for hard times.

“Every time a need arises, we address it,” Patterson says.

In 2004, Patterson sat down with the legislature to develop the Fiscal Discipline Act to put “South Carolina’s fiscal house back in order.”

As school districts across the state struggle with the capital costs of expansion and facility repairs, Patterson says the state should develop an education infrastructure bank.

Patterson notes he also helped develop the financing for the new Cooper River Bridge, named for his opponents father, and developed a borrowing plan for MUSC.

The way Republican Thomas Ravenel talks, you’d think Grady Patterson uses an abacus. Ravenel says his campaign is about modernization.

“After four decades, we need a change,” he says. “We need modern ways to invest state funds and we can use modern methods to improve services. We’re not going to be the last to make any changes.”

Ravenel says he’ll encourage the legislature to make further income tax cuts and he is a strong proponent for efforts to turn constitutional offices into governor appointments.

Whether the treasurer is appointed or not, having a fellow Republican on the state Budget and Control Board will give the governor a better footing, Ravenel says.

“If you elect a governor, you want him to be the CEO,” he says. “But he’s only one of five votes.” As a business owner, Ravenel notes he’ll bring the best business practices to the office.

“I’ll be looking for ways to cut costs and cut waste,” he says.

“Sometimes less is more.”

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Grady Patterson Jr. (D) (Incumbent)
Age: 82 Residence: Columbia Family: Married, six children, 12 grandchildren Education: Attended Clemson University; B.S. and J.D. from University of South Carolina Job: State treasurer Political Experience: Treasurer 1966-94 and 98-present Website: www.gradypatterson.com



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Thomas Ravenel (R)
Age: 44 Residence: Charleston Family: None Education: BS in business administration from The Citadel, MBA from the University of South Carolina Job: Real Estate Developer Political Experience: None Website: www.ravenel2006.com




OTHER RACES

• Secretary of State Mark Hammond (charleston.sc.lwv.org/hammond-profile.html) vs. Cheryl Footman (www.footmanforsecretaryofstate.com)

• Attorney General Henry McMaster (unopposed)

• Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom (www.richardeckstrom.com) vs. Drew Theodore (www.drewtheodore.com)

• Adjutant General Stan Spears (www.stanspears.org) vs. Glenn Lindman (www.sctag.org)


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