by Paul Bowers
After tonight's gubernatorial debate at Charleston Southern University, Democratic secretary of state candidate Ginny Deerin will hold her own mock debate against her opponent, incumbent Republican Mark Hammond.
Deerin says she will hold the mock debate on the campus of CSU at about 8 p.m. either inside or near Lightsey Chapel, the site of the gubernatorial debate. She says she sent a letter to Hammond on Sept. 17 requesting a debate, but since she has not received a response, she will hold a debate against a yet-to-be-announced "special guest." (Let's just hope she doesn't go all Clint Eastwood on us and yell at an empty chair.)
Deerin, who has been endorsed by the S.C. Libertarian Party and the fiscally conservative S.C. Club for Growth, is running an aggressive campaign against the 12-year incumbent Hammond. In the past week, The State has run stories showing that Hammond works an average of only 2.9 days per week in his office and that Hammond's "temporary employee," a man named Michael D. Kelly, makes $83,000 a year and works about two days a week. Hammond told The State that Kelly, who has worked in the office since 2003, does research for him, attends hearings in the Legislature, and has also driven Hammond back and forth to Columbia from his home in Spartanburg when back problems made it difficult for Hammond to drive.
Deerin has criticized Hammond's decision to hire Kelly, deriding him in the press as "12 years a temp." Tonight, Deerin says she is "just going to have some fun" in Hammond's absence.
"I think it's disrespectful that he's not campaigning," Deerin says. "I just think he owes it to the voters." Hammond did not respond to a request for comment.
As for that gubernatorial debate: At 7 p.m. tonight, all five candidates for governor will participate in a one-hour debate at Charleston Southern University. But you probably can't attend.
According to the Post and Courier, which is co-sponsoring the event, tickets are not available to the general public. Instead, tickets were given to the candidates to be distributed to their supporters. Schuyler Kropf, in an article out yesterday, explains, "The Lightsey Chapel Auditorium on the Charleston Southern University campus seats more than 1,500 people, which means it could be loud inside during the one-hour debate as the audience responds to what's said on stage."
Fortunately for the riff-raff sitting at home, the debate will be broadcast live on WCIV-TV ABC News 4 and will be available for streaming at live.postandcourier.com. All five candidates are expected to participate: Independent candidate Tom Ervin, Libertarian candidate Steve French, Republican incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley, United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves, and Democratic S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The topics of tonight's debate will be jobs, the economy, and growth, according to the P&C. At a follow-up debate on Oct. 21, the topics will be education and healthcare.