Candidates get heated during political forum

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Things got pretty lively at the Anderson County Republican Women’s political forum last Thursday night, especially between the two candidates for the District 10 House of Representatives seat. Incumbent Joshua Putnam became obviously upset over a question read on behalf of someone who had e-mailed it earlier.

The question, while referring to a contribution made to Putnam’s campaign in the 2001 special election to fill former Rep. Dan Cooper’s term, accepted Putnam’s oft repeated explanation that he had no knowledge of Wilson’s business and legal problems at the time.

Wilson and his company, Atlantic Bullion & Coin, are currently the subject of a federal investigation into his alleged illegal sale of securities; in effect a $90 million Ponzi scheme.

The question, however, went on to ask Putnam why he chose to ignore the Republican Party’s formal censure of Wilson for openly supporting Senator Kevin Bryant’s Democratic opponent in 2010.

Putnam became testy, ignoring the issue of the censure and immediately attacking his opponent Hamp Johnson for “trying to make it look like we are in bed with Ron Wilson. The other side keeps bringing this up and it’s really just hilarious. I think it is humorous. I really don’t know why I’m even answering a question from someone who isn’t even here.”

“ I’ve spoken to Ron Wilson twice in my entire life. When he came to me, I did what a good leader would do. I sought wise counsel. I talked to five people I respected, including Senator Bryant, and he told me to take the money, because it would keep Ron Wilson quiet.”

Johnson immediately challenged Putnam, saying that neither he nor his campaign have raised the issue at all. “I haven’t said a word about this and you know it. So if you are pointing that accusation at me, you can just stop it, because it isn’t true.”

Putnam tried to retreat a step or two, saying that it was others from the “other side” who had been keeping the issue alive. Again Johnson flared,” Who? Who are they? I will correct this immediately. Tell me who they are. Name names.”

Putnam began to explain that when he registered to run this time, someone at the Party Headquarters raised the issue, but he refused to mention anyone by name. “I don’t have their permission to use their name. I will send you a list,” he told Johnson, who demanded that he do so as soon as possible.

Other opponents also spoke, often exchanging comments, but in a more issue oriented atmosphere. Sen. Kevin Bryant and challenger Don Bowen, Jr., spurred by numerous questions and comments from the audience of approximately 60 people, made their differing views on school choice very clear. Bryant has backed several bills supporting school choice while Bowen, Jr. clearly favors the current public education system.

Senator Billy O’Dell from District Four had a previous commitment, but his challenger, newcomer Riley Harvell spoke about the need to cut wasteful spending and to remove taxes on job creators in place of the state’s current patchwork of economic incentives.

Rep. Don Bowen, Sr. and challenger Ted Luckadoo both spoke passionately about the importance of the public education system, and Bowen spoke passionately about seven or eight other items as well.