By Stan Welch
Approximately thirty people attended a candidate forum in Powdersville Tuesday night. The Clemson area League of Women Voters sponsored the event, which presented the two candidates for the District 10 seat in the S.C. House race.
Lucy Hoffman, the Democratic candidate and West Cox, the Republican, answered questions prepared by the moderator, Professor Liz Smith, from Furman University, as well as questions from the audience.
Cox, a lawyer for the Williamston firm of Cox and Cole, is also a member of the Anderson County Bar Association, the Powdersville Business Council, and the Piedmont Lions Club. In his opening statement, he expressed his belief that citizens have a duty to serve the public.
Hoffman, a lifelong educator, said she went back to college at age forty seven and obtained a master’s degree in history. She stressed her interest in education as the main part of her platform.
She would stay true to that theme throughout the forum, stating at one point that she would use the entire one hundred million dollars state budget surplus to give the state’s teachers bonuses. She said that teachers should be paid the same as lawyers and doctors. She said that all the frustration and interference that teachers have to deal with would be easier to take, if they were paid more.
Asked what he would do with the surplus, Cox said that a one time use of such money should be done wisely. He suggested increased funding for some emergency services, but he also stressed that a tax rebate should also be implemented. “If the General Assembly has a surplus, it’s because the state collected more taxes than it needed that year. At least some of that money should be returned.”
Smith also asked what each candidate would do to increase the state’s ability to cope with hurricanes; a timely question as Michael approaches from the Gulf and thousands of South Carolinians continue to struggle with the impacts of Florence. Hoffman mentioned needed improvements to infrastructure and additional ways for citizens to obtain assistance. She also talked about the effects of climate change on the magnitude of the storms in recent years.
Cox said first responders need more funding, and more should be done to publicize the resources available to the public before disaster strikes. He also recommended legislation to make it easier for charities to operate during crises and disasters.
Both candidates said they would absolutely support medical marijuana for use by those with conditions that could benefit from the treatment. Hoffman told a personal story about a relative who had struggled with the state over that issue, while Cox said he always favors people being in control of their own health care. He said that some safeguards would need to be put in place, but he saw no reason to deny access to the benefits of medical marijuana.
When asked about gun violence in our society and schools, Hoffman said that unfortunately she believes that “someone high up will have to lose a child” before anything is done. She added that, as a teacher, she had received active shooter training. “If our children should be safe anywhere, they should be safe in our schools.”
Cox supported increased funding for mental health resources to identify problems and suggested the implementation of gun violence restraining orders. Those are a means of temporarily confiscating the guns of someone against whom such a restraining order is issued. The restraining order remains in force while the person receives the appropriate psychological treatment. He called for additional ‘common sense’ reforms.
Hoffman expressed complete support for the expansion of Medicaid in South Carolina, citing five rural hospitals she says have closed in the last year; hospitals that could have stayed open with the additional Medicaid funding.
Cox said he would not support the expansion until he has seen an analysis of the costs incurred, and has assurances that the money will be spent appropriately.
He continued to reflect a cautious approach to spending programs, saying that he would support programs to provide assistance to the elderly, but would want to “know what is involved, and to be assured the funding would be in place to support the programs.” Hoffman answered the same question with an unequivocal yes.
The issue of domestic violence came up, with Hoffman decrying the fact that ninety five per cent of such cases are settled by plea bargains; a condition that Cox agreed with. “Stronger laws were passed but the General assembly didn’t follow up with the funding needed to really enforce them,” said Cox. Both agreed that the existing laws must be enforced.
In a related question, Smith raised the issue of economic discrepancies between the sexes. Cox pointed to earlier targeted job training programs provided by the state, and suggested that women receive such specialized training.
Hoffman recommended that small businesses receive incentives available to larger businesses currently. “They should get at least a year to get their feet under them. Small businesses are crucial to our economy, and they deserve some consideration as well. Cox pointed to the recent success of the state’s economic development efforts, including tax incentives, and said he would continue that direction. He did tout tax reforms to make such incentives less necessary.
The League of Women Voters handed out cards with the VOTE411.org link on them, to assist people in registering to vote and where to vote.
By Stan Welch