ABC News 4 moderator (left to right), Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, Mt. Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, and Greenville businessman John Warren.
The four Republican hopefuls looking to nab the governorship away from Gov. Henry McMaster took shots at his absence at a debate in Charleston Wednesday evening.
Greenville businessman John Warren, Mt. Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill duked it out at the College of Charleston just one night after the three Democrats in the race took the same stage, and less than a month before the primaries for S.C. governor on June 12.
Minutes into the start of the debate, Bryant highlighted the empty podium at the end of the stage when discussing his pledge to re-structure the S.C. Department of Transportation into a Cabinet-level agency.
Along with using McMaster's absence as a punching bag, three of the candidates dragged McMaster's name into the probe into Statehouse corruption, with Templeton calling his name "synonymous with Statehouse corruption" in an interview with reporters after the debate.
"I don't know why he's not here tonight," Templeton said during a question about Statehouse corruption. "It's inexcusable because we never elected him."
"What should we expect when [McMaster's] lead political consultant over the past 30 years is Richard Quinn
?" Warren asked during the same question.
Bryant also called Gov. McMaster's relationship with Quinn into question.
"I need to point out that the godfather is the person that this whole investigation surrounds now, and Gov. McMaster — his first order of business was that he had the godfather over at the governor's mansion, so he’s part of the swamp," Bryant said during a question about President Trump.
Ties to Quinn and his Columbia consulting firm Richard Quinn and Associates have been analyzed while investigations into corruption reportedly circled Quinn and his son, former Rep. Richard Quinn, Jr. For years, the elder Quinn (likely the 'godfather' Bryant was referring to) has helped S.C. Republicans and Democrats, including McMaster, get elected. Last year, state prosecutor David Pascoe indicted both Quinns and three other state reps on charges related to the investigation. Quinn, Jr. resigned his office and both Quinns agreed to a plea deal with the prosecutor which he later attempted to contest.
Except for Bryant, each of the Republicans on stage explicitly stated their support for the sitting U.S. president.
Below are condensed answers from all four candidates on the rest of the issues.
On transportation and the Wando River bridge closure:
Bryant: "When I was a member of the Senate in 2008, Gov. Sanford took the show on the road and spoke to taxpayers and instead on a cabinet level agency. As governor, I will take the message to the taxpayer and explain why the roads aren’t being fixed."
McGill: "Citizens have paid million and millions of dollars and we know what an inconvenience it will be for someone to go through Highway 41 or meander their way around the peninsula. South Carolina has many professionals that will make the difference and get this bridge repaired. The problem is this will take a lot longer than people realize."
Templeton: "Since McMaster has been governor there have been at least 82 inspections, once a week. And now, its broken and we’re going to have to wait to talk about how to fix it. I will venture that if the bridge at the Statehouse was crumbling, they wouldn’t walk outside for the last 82 weeks and watch it crumble, they’d fix it."
Warren: "The [Department of Transportation] problem is an example of what happens when career politicians and government insiders control transportation in South Carolina. We do need to make it a cabinet-level position."
On school safety:
Bryant: "The way to stop an active shooter is to shoot back. That’s why we never see these shootings in places like gun clubs, we see them in gun free zones. I’ve authored legislation to remove mandate that says districts can only have uniformed officers armed at school. I thought [the decision to arm teachers] ought to be a local decision."
McGill: "I’m telling you now, a lot that occurs is because we don’t look and listen to what we’re being told. Do we need security officers in the school? I say yes."
Templeton: "My child gets on the bus and goes about three blocks from one of the highest crime rates in the state. I’m terrified of school violence and school shooters, but what makes me feel more comfortable is knowing we will have an armed guard in every single school if I’m governor."
Warren: "In my company, we have multiple entrances, but if you’re a guest, you can only enter in one location. That’s very outdated technology that’s not hard to mimic. One entrance, and there should be an armed guard at that entrance. Liberals want to trample the Constitution, I fought to upkeep the Constitution as a Marine. As governor, I will protect our children and I will protect gun rights."
On the #MeToo movement:
Bryant: "Keep your mouth shut and keep your hands to yourself. I’ve thrown customers out of my drug store for saying things and doing things inappropriate to our employees. The main thing we need to do is encourage these victims to come forward and applaud their courage for coming forward and telling their story."
McGill: "You won’t find any loyalty in the executive branch for anyone who abuses a child a lady or anyone."
Templeton: "There are laws in place that can protect you, and law enforcement can protect you. I don’t wanna sound insensitive at all, I’ve run that danger, but if you are uncomfortable, [then] report it. This Me Too movement seems to have turned into this dramatic liberal viral deal that 30 years later something happened to you and now you’re talking to it because it’s popular."
On the V.C. Summer $9 billion nuclear debacle:
Bryant: I asked Dominion [Energy, which is trying to buy SCANA, the majority owner of the failed reactors], 'How much percentage is going back to the ratepayer?' They said 60 percent. I said, 'That’s unacceptable. It needs to be 100 percent.' I too have called for the removal of the whole board of Santee Cooper."
McGill: "When that legislation was passed on the floor of Senate, the bill came to me, and I saw that it was a guarantee that if a project failed, the ratepayers of this state would have to pay for it. I didn’t sign the bill. Simply put, don’t obligate the citizens of this state for what they can’t afford to pay back."
Templeton: "When I'm governor, I’m going to make sure we get our money back and we’re gonna make sure the legislature stops these special interest lobbyists from taking it."
Warren: "Santee Cooper is one of the most disgraceful things that have happened in this state. We need to fire the board, they also allowed the CEO to retire and get an $800,000 pension. We need to do a forensic audit to find out where the money went."
On the state's prisons:
Bryant: "You’re not gonna hear me talk about spending taxpayer dollars very often. We’re the least funded [Department of Corrections] in the country. What folks do is they’ll get the training and get qualified, they’ll go to D.O.C., and then they’ll find a better job in another agency and another state. We’ve got to pay the law enforcement officers putting their lives on the line to protect us. Waiting on a federal government to jam the cell phones lie the governor suggested, that’s madness."
McGill: "There are funds available to pay these correction officers and to put more numbers on the job. The issue is additional protection guards in those facilities."
Templeton: "We have to treat criminals like criminals, it's that simple. We’ve got to hold our governor accountable. This is one that is directly related to the governor of South Carolina. Why aren’t we jamming the cell phones? When I’m governor, I’ll jam the cell phones on day one."
Warren: "[S.C. Dept of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services and Dept. of Corrections.] If you combine those departments, the taxpayer would save $2.8 billion dollars. You should hire more corrections officers, second you can pay them more."