Lt. Gov. candidates seek expanded role 

Both want more action in part-time position

With all the tabloid scandal, blog rumors, and TV advertising devoted to the race for the next governor, we sometimes forget that the rest of the state's offices will see major changes, too.

Retirements and primary loses mean that, aside from a new governor, South Carolina will have a new adjutant general, treasurer, attorney general, and lieutenant governor.

That's right, there's going to be a new No. 2. After a failed gubernatorial run, we won't have André Bauer to kick around anymore.

To call the two competing campaigns ambitious would be an understatement. Each wants to expand on the office's current tasks — presiding over the state Senate, running the Office on Aging, and serving on the Affordable Housing subcommittee.

Ken Ard

Republican

Business Politician: As a private business owner, Ard says he grew frustrated with politicians. "I saw a genuine lack of business acumen in the process," he says. In 2004, Ard was elected to Florence County Council and, last year, he became the Florence County Republican Party chairman. Ard is anxious to bring his business approach to statewide office — including his experience balancing a budget, submitting payroll, and generally living and working in the private sector. "You've got to have elected officials who know how to get up early, stay up late, and solve problems," he says.

Change: Ard says voters are sick of finger-pointing in Columbia. "There's enough blame to go around," he says, before offering the kind of folksy aphorism found on a the bumper of a pick-up. "When the ox is in the ditch, you get in the ditch and pull him out."

Seniors: Noting that seniors are a frequent target for fraud, Ard says the Office on Aging needs to provide a more responsive consumer protection division and lobby for increased penalties for criminals who prey on seniors.

Health: Ard also wants to use the "bully pulpit" of the lieutenant governor's office to encourage wellness across all generations, involving grandparents, parents, and children. "That's feel-good by nature, but there's some value there," he says. A fit populace will also reduce healthcare costs over the long run.

Economic Development: Growing businesses will also be a priority for Ard. Florence has seen strong per capita growth in the past few years and has been praised for having a business-friendly environment. Ard says he can bring that experience to Columbia, and he says he'd monitor regulations to make sure they aren't overly burdensome. And he'd also call for improved infrastructure. "I think the private sector views the government today as an impediment," he says. "Government has to learn it's the private sector that drives the car."

Ashley Cooper

Democrat

Change: A Charleston lawyer seeking his first elected office, Cooper also says he's frustrated with politics in Columbia. "There's just more and more partisan politics, and that's just not doing anything to help that person struggling," he says.

Seniors: Cooper says the ballooning number of seniors who will need assistance over the next two decades requires a vision that goes beyond a year-to-year budget. He's calling for a 20-year strategic plan so the state is prepared to honor its promise to seniors. "We're getting ready to get hit with something on our system that nobody has ever seen," he says.

Business, Jobs: Cooper would help small businesses by fostering and coordinating the various incubators around the state that are already providing start-up assistance. Cooper says he'd like to bring a program to South Carolina that puts people who are jobless back to work, with employers receiving a portion of the unemployment benefits to subsidize the paychecks. That amount would slowly be whittled away over a few months until employers are paying full salaries.

Health: Cooper also wants to provide a broader wellness approach that addresses health concerns early, noting increasing concerns about the obesity and lack of nutrition of our young people.

Energy: With positive news across the state on alternative energy, including local wind turbine plans, Cooper says the state should capitalize on this momentum and become a leader in the energy industry.

Private Partners: Cooper has a demanding vision for the lieutenant governor – a part-time position. He stresses it's not a one-man job. "I've gone to the business community and said, 'Will you take a part in this,'" he says. "When I'm talking about healthcare, I'm going to hospitals and doctors and saying, 'Will you help with this.'" Cooper says it's about having a system prepared to utilize this private investment.


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