Originally created 10/07/04

Candidate for Senate speaks at local mill



GRANITEVILLE - Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Inez Tenenbaum used a textile mill as a backdrop Wednesday for her continued assault on U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint's proposed 23 percent national sales tax and his unabashed support of free trade that she said has cost South Carolina almost 60,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001.

Mrs. Tenenbaum, the state's education superintendent, chided Mr. DeMint for calling textile executives who support her "malcontents" and "hypocrites," but she didn't try to score points on her opponent's statement that single pregnant women shouldn't be teachers.

She gave a blanket response to both Mr. DeMint's words on the suitability of single pregnant women teaching and his assertion during a debate in Charleston on Sunday that gays and lesbians should not be hired as classroom teachers.

"If a person is well-qualified, if that person does their job well, we should not discriminate against them," Mrs. Tenenbaum said during a news conference at Avondale Mills' Horse Creek denim plant, one of six textile mills the company owns in the Aiken-Augusta area.

"I told Jim I thought his comments about schoolteachers were un-American and that the private lives of our teachers shouldn't be criticized."

Mr. DeMint, favored to win the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings because South Carolina is a heavily Republican state, issued an apology Wednesday for his comment on pregnant single women being an unacceptable role model for children, which he made during a Tuesday afternoon meeting with the editorial board of the Aiken Standard.

"So as my wife often reminds me, sometimes my heart disengages from my head and I say something I shouldn't - and that's what happened yesterday," said Mr. DeMint in a prepared statement. "I clearly said something as a dad that I just shouldn't have said. And I apologize."

For more than a month, Mrs. Tenenbaum has savaged Mr. DeMint's sponsorship of a 23 percent national sales tax designed as a substitute for the federal income tax, saying it would be an unfair burden on middle-class South Carolinians on everything from food and car purchases to movies and prescription drugs.

Abolishing the income tax would also eliminate deductions for mortgage payments and charitable donations, she said.

Mrs. Tenenbaum also lambasted Mr. DeMint for voting to give China permanent normal trading status and for being the only member of the Congressional delegations of North Carolina and South Carolina not to petition President Bush to ask for an extension of quotas on Chinese textile goods that are set to expire at year's end.

South Carolina will lose 42,000 manufacturing jobs, most of them in the textile industry, if those quotas are lifted, she said.

"Every one of our congressmen and senators went to bat for textile workers except one - Jim DeMint," she said.

If elected to the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Tenenbaum said, she would vote to extend those quotas until 2008

She also repeated her call for a moratorium on new trade pacts until their impact on domestic jobs could be studied.

Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or jim.nesbitt@augustachronicle.com.