South Carolina's seven gubernatorial candidates met for a family-values-themed debate Tuesday as the campaign entered its final three weeks.
The Republican half of the twin 30-minute debates started with sparks, based on state Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington's first gubernatorial ad hitting the air Tuesday. That ad takes a shot at each of her three opponents, Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett.
Haley has criticized Barrett for voting for a federal bank bailout, but Barrett fired back at Haley for voting for using about $350 million in federal stimulus money in this year's state budget before voting, and campaigning, against the money. Haley said two earlier votes were "procedural" and she voted against final passage of the bill.
"I never said I never voted for it," Barrett said of his Troubled Assets Relief Program vote. "Procedural votes do matter and the record is very clear."
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Barrett's final vote, Haley said, was for passage of TARP.
"The final vote on the stimulus, I voted against," she said. "My opponents have said they favored taking the stimulus."
Bauer was pressed on his claims of ending "generational welfare," with moderator Judi Gatson of WIS TV asking him which programs, many of which are federally run, he would end?
"We've got to have an adult conversation, Bauer said, not providing specifics. "It's all programs."
The candidates took on questions about entering office with a looming billion-dollar deficit, recruiting jobs to South Carolina counties with the highest unemployment and resisting temptations that come with elected office.
"I want every son and daughter of South Carolina to know the whole world is open to them," McMaster said, answering a question about why S.C. has so few elected women.
The Democratic half of the debate had fewer fireworks.
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