Spartanburg GOP Hosts Debate (With A Surprise!)
April 23, 2002
On Monday night in the County Council Chambers on North Church Street in downtown Spartanburg, the Republican Party of Spartanburg hosted a question and answer session featuring the candidates for County Council Chairman, County Auditor, House District #35 and House District #36. Questions were posed by Baker Maultsby of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and Ralph Bristol, contributing writer for Commonvoice.com and talk show host on WORD radio.
Before the local candidates began fielding questions, all three of the Republican candidates for Attorney General made a surprise appearance, each speaking briefly about why they are the best candidate for the job.
Here are my thoughts on each one:
This guy is slicker than a greased pig on a hot summer day! He talked about his experience as the State GOP Chairman as a reason to vote for him. He yelled the entire two minutes (it seemed longer!) of his blah blah blah speech. I couldn’t tell what office he was running for between his political innuendo. If there is a consumate politician in this race, then it is definitely McMaster!
Gave example after example of his prosecution history over the past 11 years. You could tell he was passionate about putting away people who break the law, regardless of who they are. He said that we need a strong Attorney General who will deal with the public corruption because of the lottery. His confidence was radiant as he spoke directly from his heart about these issues.
Unlike McMaster, Richter was an extremely soft-spoken man. He detailed his work in the judicial system in South Carolina and claimed he was the “best lawyer for this position.” He seemed to take a potshot at McMaster when he said that he was not running for Attorney General as a “political launching pad.” He claimed that he would de-politicize the office and concentrate on the legal issues. My impression of this guy is that he is too melancholy to be Attorney General of South Carolina!
After the Attorney General candidates cleared the room, it was time to begin the question and answer session. It was a rather mundane exchange with quiet, yet noticeable competition amongst the candidates for County Council Chairman and County Auditor. The two House District races each had only one candidate show up for the debate. Their questions were the same, although the two candidates were running for different state House seats.
First up was the Spartanburg County Council Chairman’s race. Alex Evins and Jeff Horton were questioned about the problems with the county budget, land preservation and conservation, alternatives to property taxes and alcohol sales on Sunday.
He focused on the problem of County Council spending beyond its means. He said that the County Council must provide essential services without increasing taxes. He is in favor of allowing the people to vote on issues of land preservation and implementing what the voters decide. This is something that needs to be addressed quickly. As for property taxes, he asserted that they are very unpopular. He does not favor a voter referendum on a local option sales tax because it has been soundly defeated before and will be soundly defeated again. He reasserted his position that the County has a budget spending problem, not a tax revenue problem. He said that revenues are flat, but they are not going down. He does not think you can tax your way out of the budget problems. He was adamant about ensuring public safety by protecting law enforcement and roads from being cut from the budget. As for alcohol sales on Sunday, he is in favor of letting the voters decide on this issue in November and will do what the voters want. This guy brings 18 years of experience as a lawyer who has focused on economic development to the table. He would like to continue his public service to deal with the budget deficit, stimulate economic development to create jobs and divise a 20-year strategy for the future of Spartanburg County.
As a member of the County Council since 1994, he has served on every committee there has been. He says that the County Council is close to getting the budget under control, with only $1 million to make up. He says the County will survive by continuing to build economic growth and promote jobs. The land preservation issue is a work in progress and needs public input to make the hard decisions about what to do. The local option sales tax idea would not help local governments relieve property taxes because they will still increase to pay for schools and fire departments. He advocates a statewide sales tax to completely get rid of property taxes. He stated that there are 55 vacant positions in local government that have been frozen to help with the budget problems. They are doing everything possible to wisely spend taxpayer dollars. His view on alcohol sales on Sunday is to purchase it before Sunday. Self-employed for 22 years, he wants to improve the quality of life, solve the budget problems, work on cutting down on excessive government regulation and bring a business-like approach to the Council Council Chairman position.
Next was the County Auditor’s race, featuring Barbara Hopper and Sharon West who dealt with questions about their qualifications, the complicated property tax system, smoother future reassessments, customer service and pertinent information on the tax bill.
She said her 11 years experience working in the County Auditor’s office qualifies her to be the County Auditor. She said that she would serve the taxing authorities and would be accountable for the revenue collected. As for the complexity of the property tax system, she says that the taxing authorities are not aware of all the details. She opposed programs like high mileage on vehicles because it created more problems for the system. She says that legislative reform is sorely needed. The reassessment last time was a mess. Communication must be in place to make sure the gray area laws are understood by all parties involved. She wants to improve the standards by offering good cross-training of employees and improving technology. Futhermore, better and more frequent communication of exemptions for senior citizens are needed. Networking and communicating will be major focuses when she becomes County Auditor. She says the tax bills are too confusing and contain too much information. She says she wants to run this office like a business. She points out that her experience on both sides of this job as an active offical in assessment as well as working for schools as a non-tenured employee give her the edge in this race.
She has worked for the County Treasurer for 30 years and will use her experience to help the taxpayers. She claims the property tax system is getting more and more complicated every day. Since the margin for error has been raised, she is in favor of simplifying and becoming educated about the entire property tax system. These problems must be ironed out before the next reassessment. She says that cross-training is happening already and that her office is there to serve the public because they pay her salary. Any and all problems are handled by the office or they are referred to an office that will take care of them. The wrong information is included on the property tax bills. This must be cleaned up through County Council because the current information is not useful to the taxpayer. She says that can and should change immediately. She said that Republicans should support the best candidates for each office in the elections. She claims to be that candidate in the County Auditor’s race. She says that her work as Deputy Treasurer for 23 years giver her the experience to be the County Auditor. She will bring her qualified and courteous staff with her if she is elected.
Finally, incumbent Republican State Representative Phil Sinclair running for House District #35 and the mayor of Lyman, Bob Fogel, running for House District #36 answered questions about why they want to be a state representative, choice in education, should certain forms of taxation be eliminated and what to do to provide jobs and protect the uniqueness of South Carolina.
Running for re-election, he wants to continue to serve his constituents in the House. He says that public schools must be improved with accountability. He believes that students should be able to transfer from poor performing schools. Although he cites that homeschooled students are doing well, he made it clear that he is a big proponenet of public schools. He said that good jobs and public schools is what attracts new residents to South Carolina. He said that we need to wait on talking about vouchers until after the U.S. Supreme Court makes their ruling on whether they are constitutional or not. He favors tax credits over vouchers. As for ending certain forms of taxation, he says that the gubernatorial candidates are playing election year politics. There is a bill in the Senate that would call for an examination of the entire tax system. He said the property tax is not a fair tax and should be looked at closely. He claims it would cost 9-10 cents in sales taxes to completely get rid of property taxes in South Carolina if that is what the voters want to do. He endorses the current three-tier tax system as the best form of equal revenue available for state government. He says that quality of life and public education are the most important issues to him in the next ten years. He believes property owners have the right to do what they want with their property without government interference. He said there is a big problem with competing needs within the same district that makes his decisions tough. He was elected two years ago and wants to continue what he started. He says the answer to many of the budget problems is to economize through privatization of state services, such as the DMV. Cutting taxes, protecting children and accountability in education are the main points in his re-election campaign.
As the mayor of Lyman, he has done a lot of good for the people by saving them money. He has networked with Rita Allison and has made great contacts in Columbia that will help him when he becomes a State Representative. On education, he believes in personal choice. He highly favors vouchers to pay for education, touting homeschool and private schools as excellent alternatives to the failing public schools. He says that vouchers will help the poor get the best education they can get. He favors economic development to improve the state economy. We must attract businesses to come to our state to create more tax revenue. He stated that if taxes are eliminated completely, they must be replaced somehow. He asserts that people flock to our state because of our beautiful mountains and beaches and that we should do everything possible to preserve these natural treasures. He pushes his pro-life, pro-gun, small government and lower taxes positions as proof of his conservative values. He says his 6 years as mayor and working with Rita Allison have prepared him to become a State Representative.
Overall, it was a great chance to hear the candidates for the local offices in Spartanburg. Since there were no Democrats to register for these races, the June GOP primary will essentially be the election. All of these candidates are excellent and will serve their respective offices well.
Don’t forget to vote for these local candidates when you go to vote for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State on June 11th!