Democratic gubernatorial debate

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We're live at the Democratic gubernatorial debate.

7:00: Introductions and opening statements. Debate will be televised on Comcast … this weekend. You're getting it live now.

7:05: Live and e-mailed questions. 30 days until election day.

7:10: State Sen. Vincent Sheheen with his opening comments.

"I want to make South Carolina government work again."

"Get public education on the offense, not the defense."

Bio: Wife, three kids. Jobs, natural resources (endorsed today by Conservation Voters of South Carolina). Problem solver.

State Sen. Robert Ford. Been an elected official for more than three decades.

Says he has a solid Democratic record. Supported gay community.

Union champion. "I've been their champion and I'm looking for them."

"South Carolina right now is broke."

State Education Superintendent Jim Rex Only statewide Democrat in office right now.

"I think the political system is broken. I know the revenue system is broken."

Teacher, coach, and college president.

7:15 — First question. Illegal immigration.

Ford talking about wind turbine jobs in North Charleston. More jobs coming. Ford says immigration is "federally controlled."

Rex says borders should be secured. He says it's a health issue and an education issue. "We need to make sure employers are obeying the law."

Sheheen says the legislature addressed immigration a few years ago and the state needs to wait and see how those new rules help address the problem.

7:15 — State revenue struggles

Rex says revenue system is broken — notes caps and exemptions that make no since.

Sheheen agrees, but says there needs to be specifics. Says he has introduced a comprehensive tax reform proposal, including an increase in the cigarette tax. "I'm proud to put forward specific proposals and fight for those things in the past."

Ford: "My plan is to bring back video poker." And a casino in Myrtle Beach. "That would get us out of the mess we're in right now in the first year."

 7:20 — Oil and gas exploration

Sheheen says it strengthens his opinion that we don't need to be drilling off the coast of South Carolina. "We have  thriving tourism industry … we're blessed with tremendous natural resources." Willing to explore natural gas possibility.

Rex says there is no amount of oil off the coast that justifies the risk. "We just can't afford that." Natural gas is another mater. Doesn't pose the same risk.

Ford says "We can't let one accident in the gulf coast stop progress."

Sheheen says that alternative energy and the jobs that go with it are an important part of his platform.

7:25 — Where's the Dem response to the "GOP noise machine?"

Ford: "We can't play those political games." Touts his work with Sen. Glenn McConnell. "We're going to work with Republicans to get things done."

Rex: "It's easier to shout 'no,' than to explain a position."

Sheheen notes that his senate district leans Republican, but still supports him. Says the entire state is tired of Sanford, Wilson, etc.

7:30 — Affordable housing

Rex says support more public/private partnerships on a state level.

Sheheen says he's worked hard in Camden to build houses and help people find support. Says Sanford has missed opportunities to help people who need a hand up. Says next governor needs to get behind the housing authority and get creative.

Ford says he'll create a jobs program (lots of jobs in video poker industry).

7:30 — André Bauer's attack on welfare

Sheheen: Says Bauer is blaming people in need. Aid has dropped substantially since the 90s. "People are out there and they're working hard." Problem is that unemployment has gown up. The answer is to create jobs. "If there are people out there abusing the system, I have no patient for them." The only solution for those who really need help is jobs.

Rex: Says we need to reeducate and retrain our adults. "We're doing everything the wrong way right now." Would allow people to continue receiving unemployment benefits if they're in an approved education program.

Ford says Bauer went to "gutter politics" to get votes. He says the legislature is providing jobs.

7:35 — Video poker

Ford: "There's no one that can build a coalition better than I can." He says if the people support Robert Ford, they are supporting video poker.

Rex: "Ya'll know I want to say that's a bunch of bull, but I'm not." I'm not going to say it. I'm saying the odds are very long this is going to happen in South Carolina. I don't have a moral objection, I just don't think it will work.

Sheheen says video poker targets those with the least to spend it.

Ford says it targets tourists.

7:40 — "Would you give up your salary to help balance the budget?"

Rex says he's taken 15 furlough days without pay. Recently had to let 80 people go — 120 more last year.

Sheheen says if his (small) salary would balance the budget, he'd sacrifice it.

 Ford doesn't really answer the question.

7:45 — Obesity

Sheheen says legislation right now would make sure children have healthy alternatives in school. Goes back to say that he supported an effort to cut the legislature's operating budget. "We should lead by example.

Rex says federal aid is helping to provide healthy alternative. Certain magnet programs in the state are targeting physical fitness.

Ford says he'd also provide alternatives.

7:50 — School choice

Ford says he supports tax credits for private school education. With Boeing and other jobs coming, we've got to have an educated workforce. He says it won't take money away from public education. Says he's hire more teachers … with video poker revenue.

Crowd laughs

Rex says he is opposed to vouchers or tax credits. "I do believe that parents should be given more choices, but they should be within the public school system." More charter and magnet programs.

Sheheen: "I don't support tax credits. I don't support vouchers. I support our public schools." Children in public schools. Product of public schools.

7:50 — Regional approach to economic development.

Rex: "We cannot have islands of prosperity in our state." Match prospects with benefits of each region.

Sheheen: Regional approach would be an utter disaster. Would create a very energetic Department of Commerce and a committed governor. "South Carolina has been too fractured in the past with regionalism … What's good for Charleston is good for Greenville."

 Ford says he's gone throughout the state to call attention to new jobs available through Boeing.

7:55 — College tuition

Sheheen:"We have seen a disinvestment in higher education in South Carolina." Proposes increasing higher education funding.

Rex says Sheheen's proposal of increasing funding at 1 percent a year isn't enough. "We've got to give these colleges and universities enough support."

Ford says he program would provide $50 million for higher education. (Gaming money).

8:00 — Closing remarks

Rex: Spirited discussion. "This is a chance to get this state going in a different direction."Says he has the administrative experience necessary to be governor.

Sheheen notes his energy (Note: Much younger than his opponents.)

Ford back to his gaming platform.

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