By MINDY LUCAS
About 80 people turned out for a Republican candidates forum held at the Quality Inn in Beaufort, on Saturday, Jan. 25.
While candidates running for the 1st Congressional District jockeyed to position themselves as the best person to unseat Democrat Joe Cunningham, some also underscored the importance of the race on the national stage.
“This is one of the top take-back targets for Republicans nationally this year,” said Charleston candidate and South Carolina state Rep. Nancy Mace.
South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District is one of 55 seats the National Republican Congressional Committee has said it is targeting this year as part of its strategy to retake the U.S. House of Representatives.
While candidates at the two-hour event, hosted by the Beaufort Federation of Republican Men, mostly agreed or voiced similar positions on the majority of the questions asked, there were times when they were seemingly at odds with each other.
On the question, “What is the single most important issue facing voters in S.C. 1?” Beaufort County candidate and councilman Mike Covert said he had to rebut Chris Cox’s stance on education.
Earlier the Mount Pleasant candidate and founder of Bikers for Trump had cited infrastructure among other issues such as the opioid crisis among the important issues facing the district, but he also said when it came to education, South Carolinians needed to “get behind some of these narratives that are going to help our youth.”
“What better way to educate the country than starting with the youth,” Cox said.
Covert said, “I believe the federal government needs to get completely out of that business.” He added that “bureaucrats” and Capitol Hill was the “last place” education needs to be addressed.
“Parents, you should be able to send your child to public school, private school, church school, home school, Catholic school, Protestant school, whatever school fits. That’s the American way of life,” he said.
Candidates were also asked what criteria they would use when voting on “spending bills.”
Cox said he would stand on conservative principals.
“Does anybody out there know who’s stealing from Peter to pay Paul?” he said. “It’s the Democrats. We’ve got to clean this house out.”
However, Mace argued that it wasn’t just Democrats who were growing the budget.
“Who else is growing the budget? It’s Republicans. They’ve done it too,” she said, adding that voters needed to elect “a true fiscal conservative.”
On other issues the candidates mostly agreed.
Asked what actions they would take to secure the border, Bluffton candidate Brad Mole said, “We welcome immigrants as long as they adhere to the laws of America and that we have set.”
On border security, he said there could be “some more regulations removed in order that those in law enforcement can do their job.”
Mace said, “You cannot put America first if you do not secure America first.”
Cox said, “We have to get behind our President and we have to support asylum reform,” adding that he may be the only candidate who has seen the border first hand.
Covert said measures such as artificial intelligence should be used to secure the border and added that “the wall has got to be built.”
Financial planner and member of Mount Pleasant’s town council Kathy Landing agreed with Covert about building a wall, adding that the President should have the funding he needs “to finish that.”
She also took issue with birthright citizenship, which is protected under the 14th Amendment.
“We have to end things like you can come over, and you’re pregnant, and you have a baby here, and all of a sudden now you suddenly have a child who is a citizen. It’s ridiculous to have these types of laws,” she said.
“Sanctuary cities,” she said, was another issue.
“It makes absolutely no sense that there are places in this country that get federal money and yet they can say we are going to break the laws of this country by protecting and harboring people even if they’ve committed crimes,” she said.
Candidates were also asked by the federation, “What are your plans to curtail entitlement abuse in programs such as welfare, food stamps, Section 8 housing, Obama phones and Medicaid.”
Mole said he believed the question goes back to the “American family” and children who are born out of wedlock. He also stated that regulations should be removed to allow organizations to better connect with the federal government.
Mace said she would “look towards technology” to solve some of the “waste, fraud and abuse issues.”
Cox answered the question by saying, “No freebies. Not on my watch folks. That’s got to stop.”
Covert said he hated the word entitlement “when it is used wrong.”
“They call Social Security entitlement. They do a lot of that fuzzy math and I don’t like that,” he said. He went on to say the budget process needs to be done properly and the federal government needs to be limited in size and scope.
“When you start doing these things, the trickle down effect, I can’t believe I’m using that, goes into play,” he said.
Landing also referred to cutting waste and referred to the U.S. Government and Accountability Office (GAO)’s annual report on reducing redundancy of programs and waste.
She also said better judges were needed to take a look at such things as the inclusion of pain and suffering as a qualifying condition for social security’s disability program.
“That’s not right because that’s not what that disability program was set up for, and it’s robbing everyone,” she said. “So we need much better judges and the President is working hard on that.”
South Carolina’s Republican Party Primary is June 9, 2020.
Mike Covert, center, holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution as he makes his remarks during the Republican candidate forum detailing why he should be elected to replace Democrat Joe Cunningham for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. At rear, from left are fellow Republican candidates Brad Mole, left, Nancy Mace, Chris Cox and Kathy Landing. Photo by Bob Sofaly.