Exchanges sharp as rivals jab during 1st District run-off debate

By Sam Tyson email | Twitter

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - The Republican candidates for the 1st District Congressional seat got into verbal fisticuffs in a televised debate Tuesday as Tim Scott and Paul Thurmond tried to convince voters of their strengths while fighting off their opponent's claims of being career politicians.

Between questions of health care policy, "don't ask, don't tell," earmark spending and repealing Roe v. Wade, the two candidates lobbed criticism at each other for supprting tax increases and unnecessay spending on Charleston County Council.

Scott served on county council until 2008; Thurmond's term expires at the end of the year.

When asked about being a fiscal conservative, Thurmond accused Scott of playing games of political favoritism when he served on the council, going so far as to claim Scott endorsed spending taxpayer money on the legalization of marijuana.

"He didn't believe in objective standards. He believed in political favoritism," said Thurmond.

Thurmond said that since Scott left the council, the group has managed to usher in an era of transparency and objectivity.

Scott countered Thurmond's claims with one of his own, saying Thurmond had allocated over $1.5 million to non-profit organizations since Scott's exit from county council.

"With more Democrats becoming involved in county council -- and Paul has has a good relationship with them -- we would need stronger standards than we had before," said Scott.

He said that was the council's reasoning behind the creation of the Charleston Visitor Bureau.

Calling himself a "conservative problem solver" several times, Thurmond chided his primary election opponent for being a political insider and touted his lack of endorsements from career politicians.

"My opponent has run for four offices in three years," said Thurmond. "He's the epitome of politics as usual... [He] has jumped from race to race to race. You wonder why he hasn't gotten anything done in the House. He's introduced five bills and hasn't passed a single one. Within six months of moving into the House, he was running for a different race -- that is not commitment."

Scott called Thurmond hypocritical. "Paul Thurmond says 'I'm ready to retire. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to stay home and spend more time with my kids,'" said Scott. "Then an opportunity pops up and Paul jumps into the ring."

Even while fending off barbs, the two men agreed on several policy points. They share the view that the health care overhaul, dubbed Obamacare, needs to be repealed; Scott even has a bill in the Legislature that does just that. On gays in the military, both men agree that the policy is necessary. Scott called it the "very best policy our military has."

"We're at war. There's no need to conduct a social experiment while we're at war," said Thurmond.

The debate was critical for Thurmond, who trailed Scott in the June 8 primary by 15 points and has less than a week to pull in

On the hot-button issue of earmark spending, the two men deviated. The topic gave Scott an opportunity to side with Sen. Jim DeMint, who has come out strongly against any earmark spending, and to take aim at Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who he accused of political bribery through earmarks.

"Earmarks are the bloating of federal government," he said. "They're wasteful spending and it leads to corruption... Nancy Pelosi and harry Reid have used earmarks to buy the votes necessary to find a $1.2 trillion health care monstrosity."

Thurmond argued that some earmarks help the state, like the dredging of Charleston harbor. "If we don't fight for appropriate federal spending, we will be a donor state" in which South Carolina's taxpayers would be contributing to other states' pet projects without reaping the benefits.

That's the same argument used by many politicians across the state when Gov. Mark Sanford fought against receiving the federal aid package.

"Earmarks are destroying the future of our country," said Scott.

The debate was aired on a special edition of "Sharpe Focus," the current events program hosted by Charleston television news anchor Bill Sharpe. It is airing through the run-off election June 22 on Live 5+, the second-tier digital channel of CBS affiliate WCSC.

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