SC Republican governor hopefuls make their case at Aiken forum

AIKEN – All four Republican gubernatorial candidates said the next South Carolina governor should champion conservative spending, education and infrastructure.

Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, U.S. Rep Gresham Barrett and state Rep. Nikki Haley presented their platforms to a packed room in Newberry Hall this afternoon.

The Aiken Republican Club sponsored the debate with club member and former city councilwoman Jane Vaughters serving as moderator.

The 45-minute debate gave the candidates an opportunity to touch on their goals as governor, their position on the federal stimulus and other questions posed by the club’s board members.

McMaster said leadership has been lacking in the gubernatorial office, and, if elected, his experience and maturity would bring leadership back to the forefront.

“My job has not been to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” he said this afternoon. “It was to find problems, find solutions and get the job done.”

He noted his leadership in proposing a lawsuit against congressional leaders concerning a political deal with Nebraska to support the health care reform bill.

“In Washington, I was the one who led the effort to stop it,” he said. “I don’t believe in stimulus. I don’t believe in bailouts. We’ve thrown a monkey wrench up there.”

Haley said as the next governor she would return the state back to its conservative roots and encourage transparency. She sponsored legislation that would require all statehouse votes to be on record.

“In the statehouse, only 8 percent of votes were on the record,” she said. “We now have an unprecedented number of votes on record now … Politicians have learned a lot of talking points, but they don’t understand the action that goes behind it. It’s time to go to work.”

Barrett said his success at banning partial-birth abortions in South Carolina shows that he is connected with the moral issues that affect South Carolinians.

As governor, he would support an overall tax reform, including sales and property tax, and an emphasis on placing state funds for education in the classroom.

The issue is close to him, because his wife is a first-grade teacher.

“Right now, 44 cents of every dollar goes to education -70 cents of every dollar should go to the classroom,” he said. “We need to focus on reading. If you lose a child in the third grade, they will struggle all their lives.”

Bauer said he would work to cut spending in most programs as a way to improve the state’s economy.

Measures such as placing all senior programs into one agency could cut up to 15 percent in administrative costs, he said.

“One word –priorities. We spend $4 million on a Taj Mahal of a high school football stadium. That shows where we put our priorities,” Bauer said. “It’s not about more money. It’s about being better stewards of our money.”

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