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SC Republican Runoff Gubernatorial Debate Transcript, Video
Below is a transcript of the Republican runoff debate between gubernatorial candidates Gov. Henry McMaster and John Warren. The debate took place on June 20 at the Newberry Opera House. Charles Bierbauer, dean emeritus of the University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications, and Andy Shain, bureau chief of The Post and Courier, moderated the debate and asked candidates questions.
Henry McMaster: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. John, I appreciate you being here. I appreciate the television audience being here. I am proud to be your governor. There's nothing I would rather do and that's why I'm doing this, and that's why I'm running for reelection. I am proud of South Carolina. Everywhere I go, I try to look and act and do the things that you would expect your governor to do. In this race, we have heard a lot of negative charges and a lot of negative negativism. I don't believe in that. I think the governor's purpose is to inspire the people and to lead and make things happen for the betterment. I have met with two different groups of people. Volvo's expanding the plant down and Charleston and another group planning on investing $4 billion. Ladies and gentlemen, our state is going right to the top. We had the potential for enormous prosperity. I want to be sure we get that. Just in the time I’ve been your governor, have announced 6 billion in new capital investment and almost 21,000 jobs. We are winning and I want to keep on winning.
John Warren: Good evening. I am John Warren and I'm extremely happy to be here tonight. Last Tuesday, Republican voters across the state said, “we do not want Governor McMaster's failed leadership.” Over 50 percent of the voters said that. What they want is a new conservative reform movement and what that movement represents is a group of conservatives across the state that want to bring solutions to our complex problems, because we have a lot. We have lost $4 billion with Santee Cooper. We are 50th in education. We are overtaxed and the ones bearing the burden of that are the small business owners and the hard-working South Carolinians across the state. Roads and bridges are crumbling; we have no strategic plan for that. We are still funding Planned Parenthood. We have to have new leadership, someone that could come in and bring positive change, positive solutions to our complex problems and that is what I will do as governor.
Q: Starting with Mr. Warren, you talk a lot about military skills translating to business and presumably business skills that you think will translate to government. What are those? Keep in mind, there's one piece in the chain of command in Columbia that's not in your military experience and that is dealing with an independent legislature.
John Warren: So, that's a great question. I am proud to be a conservative outsider. It is true that I do not have government experience. What I have is experience in his leading Marines in intense combat and growing a successful business, and those two things will translate to great leadership and true accomplishment as a governor. People ask me all the time, why does your military record translate? Number one, look at why did I go into the military, to begin with? Our country was attacked and I went in to serve my country and lead Marines in combat. That is exactly why I am going in to become governor. I want to fight for the taxpayer. I want to bring positive change. In the military, in combat, we face a lot of obstacles. I know how to manage a crisis. I’ve done that repeatedly in terms of growing a successful business, I know the complex world of what all of our small businesses are facing because I’ve been there and I’ve created hundreds of jobs. I know how to bring companies to South Carolina because I’ve brought billions of dollars to investment myself here. That is why I asked the people to elect me but we have to have someone with the right core competencies to lead the state. We have to have someone who has been successful in the private sector.
Q: Mr. McMaster, from your experience, what did you learn moving from lieutenant governor to governor, and why couldn't an outsider, if he is a quick study, pick that up?
Henry McMaster: Because there is no real time for a learning curve. The governorship is not a place for on-the-job training. You have to have a basic understanding of how the government works and what your limitations are in the government, and what your advantages are. I need to go back about half of what my opponent said was wrong a little while ago. We have a 10-year plan to fix the bridges. It's been implemented for over a year now. Christy Hall issued a statement this morning. We have more people working now in South Carolina than we've ever had working before. Our unemployment rate is lowest it's been since 2000. As I mentioned, I have announced, since I’ve been here $6 billion in new capital investment and almost 21,000 jobs. I was with Nikki Haley this morning. She came down to Volvo where she was instrumental, of course, and bringing them to South Carolina. I worked with them to get them to expand even before they start producing cars. We have to accentuate the positive in order to fix the problems that we have. You can't go around—the governor of all people. If you can't be positive, you should not be governor.
Charles Bierbauer: Governor, I was hoping you would answer the question of what you learned when you shifted offices from lieutenant governor to governor. Maybe you could tuck that into the follow-up question. What rookie mistakes are you concerned that Mr. Warren might make?
Henry McMaster: There could be a lot of them. One thing Mr. Warren and the others had announced was going to legislature and bullying legislators. That's not the way it works. The governor must go to the legislature in order to work with the legislature. Politics is the art of addition, not the art of subtraction. What you must do is find ways to work with the people to convince them of the things they need to do to get the job done. You have to be positive in order to do that. There is a lot of knowledge that is necessary to understand the way government functions and why it does not function. To have a chief executive who is in charge of seeing that it functions who do not know how it functions is a dangerous thing to do. Now, I do salute Mr. Warren on his military services. Honorable service. We have about 400,000 veterans in South Carolina, strong military tradition but the government is not military. There's a difference. I have the experience I have the record of getting things done very innovative things. I want to continue doing that.
Q: To Mr. Warren, what career politician flaw would you attribute to your opponent?
John Warren: First of all, I find it very ironic that he thinks no experience is a negative when the more you tout than anything is the fact that you support President Trump. President Trump had no government experience. I think you are going around telling everyone, which I agree with, he's done amazing things. So, we need someone who is an outsider like Donald Trump to go to Columbia and drain the swamp. Specifically, we talk about career politicians, you know, you can work with the legislature. We have a ton of great legislatures and I look forward to working with them. We have some rotten apples. One of whom you endorse, Hugh Leatherman. He has been one of the worst things to hit South Carolina for the last 30 years. Hugh Leatherman doesn't care about our state. He doesn't care about making things better. He is profiting off the taxpayer. I’m not going to work with him and I will try to take him out in the next legislative or election in two years. We have to have someone that will fight for the taxpayer and that is what I will do. I will bring true conservative reform to South Carolina.
Henry McMaster: Donald Trump is a friend of mine. We have worked together–I campaigned all over South Carolina and parts of North Carolina with him. Donald Trump has been involved in politics for decades. They wanted him to run for governor of New York.
John Warren: What elected position did Donald Trump have?
Henry McMaster: He has been immersed in politics for many, many years.
John Warren: You can't say anything that he has been involved in.
Henry McMaster: I am speaking. He has been involved in politics and he is a world figure. He is a well-known person.
John Warren: How has he been involved in politics?
Henry McMaster: I know Donald and he is a friend of mine. You are a good man but you are not Donald Trump. I campaigned for Donald Trump, worked for him in the primary, you were for Ted Cruz. To pretend that you are a follower of Donald Trump is just inaccurate.
Q: You each have spent a great deal of time campaigning around the state. What do you think the average South Carolinian is really concerned about?
John Warren: I think it's multiple things. It's education. When you look at all the problems that we have going on in our state, it's massive. We are not winning. Local cronies are winning. To begin with, those that are using power from SCANA and Santee Cooper and SCE&G. They are not winning. Their rates have gone up. They continue to pay for a failed nuclear plant. We are concerned with education. We are 50th. It's getting worse. We don't have school choice. We are still funding Planned Parenthood. Our roads and bridges are crumbling.
Andy Shain: What do you think – talking to voters – what are their main concerns —that's it.
John Warren: I think they are worried about the future. They are worried about if our kids are going to have economic opportunities. They’re worried about their kids’ education. I have two young kids right now – 2 and a half and four months. What I worry about is will they be able to go to public schools because schools continue to get worse. Will there be economic opportunity for them to get jobs here? There is a variety of problems throughout our state and we have to have someone that understands the economy and has been successful in the private sector to get us back on track because right now we are not on track.
Henry McMaster: They are worried about the economic future. They are worried about the future of their children, they are worried about the public safety, they are worried about schools, and all of those areas are areas in which I’ve had successes and gotten things done, working across party lines. Sometimes it's been hard to do, but they want to have a trained, certified police officer in every school in South Carolina and every district and in every county. When the legislature comes back, that was my proposal and that will be law. We also want no tax money–no tax money to go to Planned Parenthood. I’ve started that process. We will see that that is cut off. The main thing that they want and they are looking for leadership in the economy to have a new kind of prosperity that will lift all voters. The answer to that, I know because I’ve been there is with the technical college system in South Carolina which everyone says, including Wilbur Ross, the U.S. secretary of commerce is the best in the United States. That's what I take when I talk to these companies that come from around the world. They are impressed and thrilled with what they see and the people of South Carolina. The pride, hope, willingness to work and that is what I know how to do. I have a record of accomplishment there and I want to continue that.
Q: What really worries you about South Carolina? What are your biggest concerns about what's happening in the state or for its future at this point, and what you would try to fix it or make better if you are governor or if you continue to be governor?
Henry McMaster: it would be a lack of inspiration and a lack of hope. A lack of leadership. Leadership going in the wrong direction. That is why I say it takes knowledge and experience to know how to do this. The record of accomplishment is what gives people confidence in what they want to do for the future. I have that record of accomplishment. In fact, my proposals and my visions are just like President Trump's for the nation. We want to cut taxes–I’ve already issued the order to eliminate regulations. He asked for troops to go to the border and I sent troops to the border. We will have those police officers and every school. We are making great progress in South Carolina and it's important that a leader stand tall for the people and understand what the problems are and lead. I have a record of doing that, not only in this office but in the lieutenant governor office and back when I was U.S. attorney under Ronald Reagan. New ideas that did not cost money involving collaboration and working. We got it done for the people in the state.
John Warren: Right now we live in the greatest state in the entire country, and the heart of our state is our people. They are honest, God-fearing and hard-working. What comes out of Columbia is the opposite of that. The whole reason for that is three main reasons. Number one, we have too much corruption in Columbia. We have people like Richard Quinn who profited off the taxpayer for decades. Number two, we have a lack of accountability. You see this in the education system. You see it in DOT and no one is accountable for the tax dollars that are wasted. Number three, it's total incompetence. We have way too many people appointed to boards and positions who should not be, who are not capable of managing those things. You see it with Santee Cooper to where only two board members have any energy sector experience. Governor McMaster's last pick is a lawyer. A lawyer doesn't know how to manage a power plant. We have to have someone that knows how to build teams, boards and put the right people and situations to make our state great.
Q: What would be your top priority to improve health care for South Carolinians, and how would you achieve it?
John Warren: Number one, I agree with Nikki Haley. We don't need to expand Medicaid. Our state cannot afford that. It would be too big of an unfunded mandate over three years after that. What we need to do, like every industry, is we need to bring more competition. The last thing we need is Obamacare. We have to encourage more competition and give people opportunities in terms of insurance as well. Get insurance across state lines. One of the things that I hear across the state, especially in the rural areas, is that a lot of the rural hospitals are going out of business. We need to think outside the box and think of telemedicine so that everyone could find a good doctor. But, overall competition would be the best thing.
Henry McMaster: Number one was dodging Obamacare. That's why as attorney general, I put together the group of attorney generals, 13 of us, that brought the Obamacare lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, ultimately. Now, part of it remains intact, and President Trump is taking care of that. It's counterproductive and an abomination we need to get rid of it and get back to competition. But what I’ve done is promoted the bill to allow nurse practitioners to work out into the rural areas without having limitations on the miles from where they could be within the care of a supervising physician and how many miles they can go out. That will open things up in those rural areas, and I promoted telemedicine. I promoted healthcare clinics. I am familiar with how those work. Yes, healthcare is a problem. We don't need the centralization that came from Obamacare. We have to get the free enterprise involved in it. We will be better off.
Q: The office for healthcare workforce forecast, the shortage in the neighborhood of 7000 nurses in South Carolina, one decade from now. At the same time, we are already having 20 percent fewer physicians than the national average. How do we rectify those issues? Having sufficient healthcare personnel?
Henry McMaster: We have to encourage them to go into that field. For example, the nurse practitioners, when they’re limited and have to have a physician supervision within a few miles, that limited that. That cut down on the number of people who wanted to go into that area. We have to encourage them to go into that area with them, but one thing I failed to mention was the opioid crisis. It is a health crisis that striking us like it is the rest of the nation, but we've taken action. I’ve taken action. Back in December, we had a task force put together to come up with recommendations, which are being implemented now. Just a few weeks ago, I signed legislation on nine separate laws that put us in a collaborative pattern with the officials cooperating with each other and sharing information about the use of opioids, requiring a specialist to be an addiction specialist and also requiring physicians to explain it to the parents of the children who are receiving it. We are making great progress.
John Warren: We can encourage more doctors in South Carolina in a variety of ways. Number one, Greenville just launched a new medical facility to have doctors in Greenville, as well as we need to continue to have doctors incentivized. We can do that by offering tax incentives to hospitals, especially in the rural areas. One thing that is being debated is if you are a doctor or a nurse practitioner going to a rural area, you can have some of your student debt forgiven. That would be a way to encourage more doctors and the more nurses. Overall, we need to create an environment where people want to live and people want to move to and right now it's not happening So we've got to have tax reform, we’ve gotta have strong education, we’ve gotta have good infrastructure, and that's what I’m going to do as governor.
Q: The environment is a vital issue. A recent union of concerned scientists’ study found that two South Carolina communities, Hilton Head and John's Island, will have the nation’s highest number of homes that will routinely flood by 2045. This is because we are obviously having rising sea levels. Do you believe in global warming and if so, what's the cause?
John Warren: The environment is constantly changing. I don't believe necessarily all those figures. Al Gore said that we would be 10 degrees hotter right now, which never happened. Ultimately what we have to do is protect our number one industry, which is tourism. I applaud President Trump for his American Energy Initiative. We've opened up drilling in Alaska, which I support but we've got to protect our environment in South Carolina, especially our beaches and that's why I’m opposed to offshore drilling.
Andy Shain: My question wasn't about offshore drilling, it was about global warming. Is there a cause?
John Warren: I don't know what the cause is. 20 years ago people were talking about global cooling, so the environment is constantly changing and I think the science is undecided in terms of the cause.
Henry McMaster: I know the water is coming up in Charleston because it floods the city streets about 50 or 60 times a year, and I’ve taken steps to see that we studied that and this would involve drainage with the Department of Transportation. I talked to the mayor of North Charleston, and that is one of our economic engines as part of it, the city of Charleston.
Andy Shain: Do you believe in global warming and if so, what do you think the cause is?
Henry McMaster: I think it's getting warmer. Whether it fits your definition, I don't know, but it's getting warmer. I know the water is coming up.
Andy Shain: Why do you think that is?
Henry McMaster: The water is coming up. Must be something melting somewhere, I guess.
Andy Shain: And it’s melting because?
Henry McMaster: Because it’s warmer. The people that studied these things, it goes up and down. It is certainly going up now. It's a real threat to us, and this same thing along the coast. We've got to be very careful but we have to protect that economic engine and I’m opposed, and I was one of the first to come out against the drilling offshore and the testing. I talked to the president about it, I talked to Secretary Zinke about it, and we’re making progress on that. And let me tell you the association with that administration is important to the state of South Carolina.
Andy Shain: We have questions from our Post and Courier readers and one is from Wayne Floyd of Charleston who wants to know where you stand on offshore drilling and are there any circumstances where you would allow it?
Henry McMaster: I’m opposed to it and I’ll tell you why. I’m glad it's the city of Greenville has come out, the city council has come out and is opposed to testing and drilling offshore. That's a major industry and an entire tourism industry. We're living in paradise. That is certainly a part of it. Offshore drilling – number one, it's not necessarily for national security. Number two, we can't take a chance with our coast. We do not have an industrialized coast and we don't want one. We are not set up that way. We are the complete opposite. We have people living on vacation on our coast. Number three, we don't have any place to put all the support mechanisms, the tanks and trucks and traffic and the refineries that would accompany it. Number four, we are right in the middle of a hurricane zone, unlike any place else. How about an oil spill and a hurricane at the same time? Number five, they just found out we've got bombs from World War II dumped out there and we ought not to drill out there.
John Warren: I do not support offshore drilling. Again, we need to become less dependent on Middle Eastern oil. We did that by drilling in Alaska, by encouraging drilling in the Dakotas and Texas. Our number one industry in South Carolina is tourism and I will protect that. I’m a conservative, which means I believe in local rule. If someone said in Greenville, “we need to mine Table Rock or mine Paris Mountain,” I would be against it. We got to encourage that number one industry and protect it and that's why I would be opposed to offshore drilling. We need to encourage more innovative energy sources, solar energy. We need to lift the cap to prevent people or encourage people to go solar if they choose and also encourage more competition in our energy sector in South Carolina.
Q: How would you approach the state certification needs? With some states, they limit care to hospitals by constraining independent surgical centers, presumably adding to the cost?
John Warren: I would encourage independent surgical centers. I believe in competition. We need to encourage more of that in the private sector. More companies need to be here. That is what I would do for that.
Henry McMaster: Any program that we have now–maybe some part of it, but probably 99 percent of it ought to be gone. It's the only way to see that we have true competition and through competition, that's where we have more healthcare.
Charles Bierbauer: You both mentioned Medicaid. South Carolina is one of 17 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Yes, it's a governor's prerogative to ask for it, or not. Governor Haley did not, and the legislature has to allocate the state contribution. There are perceptions that Medicaid is tax money that goes from the states to Washington and then is reallocated, and by not expanding Medicaid you are, in effect, leaving South Carolina tax money sitting in Washington or going to other states, so doesn't that derive South Carolinians of some benefit?
Henry McMaster: No, it does not. It doesn't work that way. With that money comes strings, and that's the way we always get in trouble in this country, particularly with the federal government. You start accepting money for this or that and next thing you know you're going in the opposite direction from where you want to go. Obamacare was a disaster, it's still a disaster. The health care system can be very much better in this country without a huge monolithic bureaucracy like that strangling everything. That was a good decision Governor Haley made, one of many good decisions. And I applauded her for it at that time and I’m happy to be the attorney who led the lawsuit to stop Obamacare before the Senate.
John Warren: I support Governor Haley’s decision not to expand Medicaid. When she did that, what it required was the government, the federal government was going to give us 70 percent and we were going to have to come up with 30 percent. That 30 percent was very significant. Furthermore, that was only guaranteed, the 70 percent of the federal government, for three years, so potentially we could have expanded and then been on the hook for the rest of the 70 percent, which could have bankrupted our state. So I was opposed to that, and I continue to be. We’ve got to find better solutions and better innovations to bring healthcare to those that would use Medicaid.
Q: The nation's immigration policies have been top of the news for the past several days and the president issued an executive order ordering the cessation of separation of children from immigrants across the border. That said, what did you think of the policy of separating children from those undocumented immigrants?
John Warren: We said we applauded President Trump's policy to build a wall. I fought in the military for country sovereignty. You cannot be a sovereign country without a border. We have to protect the border and I support building a wall. I said yesterday that President Trump would find a solution to that complex problem, and today he did. I applaud him for that. In terms of what we can do for illegal immigration here in South Carolina, it's twofold. I think both of us agree that we will prevent sanctuary cities in South Carolina. I want to take it a step further. One of the problems that we have is gang activity. As governor will support anyone arrested for gang activity having their immigration status checked.
Andy Shain: Let me ask, what was your reaction when 2000 children were separated from undocumented immigrants?
John Warren: I answered that question, which was, I knew that President Trump was going to come up with a solution to that. Today he did the executive order. He came up with a solution.
Henry McMaster: Well, President Trump was in a box because of a settlement in 1997 that required the children to go to other places to be put into the custody of relatives or guardians, and all of that. President Obama issued an order to acquire them to stay together, which was found to be unconstitutional. So, what did he do then? He did the wrong thing. Instead of enforcing the rule of the law, he lifted the law and let everyone come in and that is how all those got open wide to come in. President Trump came in and reversed that illegal order and said follow the law. We knew then that he would find a way to fix the problem.
Andy Shain: President Trump issued that executive order when they decided to have a zero-tolerance policy to prevent this from happening in the first place.
Henry McMaster: What he did was issue it very quickly. He issued it and did it the right way, and part of his order is to have that settlement agreement changed through the court process. He follows the rule of law. The prior administration did not. If we don't have strong borders, we cannot have a country. He is right on that and I will support him 100 percent.
Q: You both keep agreeing with President Trump. Obviously, you both are supportive of President Trump. Is there not one thing that you wish maybe the president had done differently, maybe during his time in the administration?
Henry McMaster: I think he is a magnificent man. That's what I say, but we didn't both support him when it counted. I was there as his state chairman in South Carolina, and they told me I was the first elected official in the country to support, then candidate, Trump. Mr. Warren was not at those meetings, he was not at the inauguration. I don't know where Mr. Warren was. President Trump is taking us in the right direction.
Andy Shain: But there's nothing he's done where you'd say, “I wish he'd done this differently?”
Henry McMaster: I’m so happy he's president. He has a way of doing things that different but he's taking us in the right direction. Wealth is going up in this country, the stock market is going wild and we've got more people employed than ever before, including in South Carolina. What I do, he and I are doing the same kind of things. We are removing regulations and getting rid of taxes on the people. One of the most important is to reward the military veterans. That's career veterans, law enforcement, firefighters and police officers—no Income tax at all on their retirement income. That’s an idea we have. I don't know if he has the idea too, but I hope he does.
John Warren: Where I was during the inauguration—I was in the private sector creating jobs and being a productive member of society. In terms of who we supported, I did initially support Ted Cruz because I thought he was a true conservative. You, on the other hand, supported Lindsey Graham. Very far cry from being a conservative. In terms of what President Trump has done well, he's done an amazing job with the Supreme Court justices; he’s done a great job of comprehensive tax reform, of deregulating a lot of things. Also, I can't believe it, but he ended the cold war in Korea. I applaud him on that. The area where I disagree with President Trump is on tariffs. I think tariffs, especially on steel and aluminum hurt South Carolinian jobs. I was with a plant in Summerville; they import 100 tons of steel a month. They do that because they can't find the steel anywhere else in America. That would be one area where I would differ.
Henry McMaster: On the tariffs, that's a work in progress and I’ve been talking to the companies here and the administration. I support Trump. I did support Lindsey Graham. He was a favorite son and I was for him, and when he got out I was the first elected official in the country, according to the Trump campaign, to support President Trump. I support him vigorously in the primary. My opponent, Mr. Warren, did not. He supported Ted Cruz. It is misleading again—let's stick with the truth. I was supporting Mr. Trump when it counted. My opponent was supporting someone else.
John Warren: There's nothing misleading with what I said. Initially, you were supporting Lindsey Graham and I think thousands of conservatives across the state would agree Lindsey Graham is not our favorite son.
Andy Shain: It was announced that Trump and Vice President Pence will campaign before the runoffs. For Mr. Warren, let me ask you first. How is this not a review of your claim that you are the candidate that's most like Donald Trump in this election?
John Warren: Ultimately, my support has a lot of Donald Trump supporters. Donald Trump has a 90 percent approval in South Carolina. It all his supporters supported Henry McMaster, we wouldn't be on the stage right now and he would not be at 42 percent. When you look at our record of accomplishment, Donald Trump is anti-establishment. Donald Trump is anti-politician. I am the only person on this stage that has ever been successful in the private sector. I’m the only person that's going to go down to Columbia and fight for the taxpayers. One thing Henry McMaster always talks about is Donald Trump, but the other thing he never mentions is the taxpayer. I am only beholden to the taxpayer and that's similar to Donald Trump.
Andy Shain: Governor McMaster, for you. There's perception that there's a little bit of desperation, maybe you are worried about losing to Mr. Warren. What would be your response?
Henry McMaster: No, I’m not worried about that. I’m delighted Donald Trump wants to come to South Carolina; he loves the people here as much as I do if that's possible. He said so over and over from the podium when I was campaigning with him across South Carolina. Also, Vice President Pence is coming. They know the importance of South Carolina in the political climate of the country, they see us as a leader with great economic progress, and great leadership and they are coming in recognition to that.
Q: Governor McMaster, it's Jun 20 and the general assembly has yet to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year which starts in 11 days. They will be in session next week. What message would you send to the legislature as to what you feel is necessary, what is acceptable and what is the veto bait?
Henry McMaster: One thing I’ve asked them to do is to see to it that they pass the sanctuary city bill which I have promoted, which will make us truly sanctuary city free now and forever. Also, the bill that will allow a trained police officer, to start on putting a certified trained police officer in every district in every school in South Carolina. What I will veto is anything that allows the burden of the failed decisions of SCANA and Santee Cooper to have those ratepayers continue to pay for nuclear that they are not going to get. I told them I was going to veto that, if anything comes across my desk, if it does anything more than charge them zero, I will veto that. I was the one that led the effort to open up Santee Cooper, open up the SCANA report, the records we got from the FBI and I had to remove the chairman of Santee Cooper in order to get that done, but I’m the one who's been forcing the change and Transparency in this. I’m the most transparent—
John Warren: What is shameful in our state is that we still fund Planned Parenthood, and as governor, I will not sign a bill that allows one cent to Planned Parenthood. That should have been done and with real leadership, we can get that accomplished. The governor mentioned SCANA and Santee Cooper. I’m the only one that has not taken hundreds and thousands of dollars from the SCANA and Santee Cooper, and when it was called for, the merger to bailout Santee Cooper or bail out SCANA and Dominion, you were initially for that. I will never allow taxpayer funds or ratepayers to bail out the private sector, and that will not happen in my administration.
Henry McMaster: I need a rebuttal. If Mr. Warren is accusing me, he's been accusing me this entire campaign, and others doing so are not here anymore. But if he's accusing me of showing favoritism for Santee Cooper and SCANA, he needs to look at the record because I’m the one that opened up what had been happening, the misdeeds and the corruption and I am the one who began that process. I’m the one who now has the legislature agreeing with me to set up a group, a commission to receive the offers and such to see that we do find a common sense free enterprise solution whether it's from Dominion or someone else but I said I will veto anything that requires those customers to pay for those.
John Warren: That's without question. Number one, you supported taxpayer funds bailing out the merger of SCANA and Dominion. Number two, on or under your leadership, the ratepayers are still paying for a failed nuclear reactor that is never going to come online and that would not have happened had I been governor.
Henry McMaster: I hadn't been governor about 20 years ago when all those laws were passed. Are you blaming me for those laws? You need to know how it works.
John Warren: I understand how it works. This is an example of failed leadership and excuse after excuse. We got to have real leadership that can take responsibility for the problems we have, and come up with solutions rather than just “everything's great in South Carolina.”
Q: In the last debate, Mr. Warren, I want to start with this question. You kind of laid into Hugh Leatherman, four times by my count, and once so far tonight. A lot of people refer to him as the most powerful man in Columbia, so how are you going to deal with this guy? He's the reality you would face if you were in the governor's office.
John Warren: We have so many great people serving the taxpayers in Columbia. There were over 300 positive bills passed in the House, the problem is they get to the Senate and they oftentimes die. We've got to have a governor who is going to fight for the taxpayer. Governor McMaster supports Hugh Leatherman. You cannot work with Hugh Leatherman if you're a conservative. So what I said from the beginning of this campaign, I will systematically target the few rotten apples that we have in the Senate. I will find quality candidates to run against them, help them get financing and campaign with them to change the makeup of the legislature. That is the only way to get true conservative reforms accomplished. That is how we bring accountability to our government, that's how we get accountability to our education system, accountability to DOT. You can't work with Hugh Leatherman—he doesn’t want to work for the taxpayer and I will not do that as Governor.
Henry McMaster: Well, it’s the same way I’ve been dealing with him. Some things it's where Mr. Warren needs to look at the record and see things that Mr. Leatherman was proposing that I ruled out a number of times, which stopped it right there. I have not agreed with him on many different issues in the time I’ve been lieutenant governor and the governor and he knows that, and I know it, I think everybody knows it except Mr. Warren.
John Warren: There was a clear choice two years ago when Hugh Leatherman was up for election. It was Richard Skipper, who was a conservative Christian businessman, and it was Hugh Leatherman, and you were on the side of Leatherman. That's a fact. That's not me misleading anyone and that's a fact that's wrong for the taxpayers of South Carolina. That's the reason our roads are crumbling, we have an interstate that no one uses and the rest of us suffer.
Q: It's safe to say we are becoming a global state. BMW, you think about companies like Giti Tire, or Samsung in Newberry or Volvo, of course, which just debuted the car that will build outside of Charleston. That said, with all that attention we still have monuments to the Confederacy and Post-Reconstruction that offends some people and hurt some people. Is it time to remove those monuments and try to promote changing the Heritage Act, which makes it difficult to remove those monuments?
Henry McMaster: You're right there. A lot of businesses all around the world are looking at South Carolina. I was with two of them this morning. They are positive about our state, they know we have the best technical college system in the world, and my proposal to them is to collaborate with the technical college systems and the research universities and they’re doing that. And that's where the brainpower is. That's something we have that other states don't do. But in 2000 we passed the Heritage Act. I supported the Heritage Act, it is a good act. I believe it should be enforced.
Andy Shain: Do you not think it's too high of a bar for local governments to make simple changes? It takes 2/3 majority of the House and Senate in order for anything to be changed.
Henry McMaster: As you remember, there was a lot of debate over a lot of years about these issues, and that was resolved in the Heritage Act, which passed. I don't think it was unanimous, but it was passed with strong support, not only in the legislature but around the state. It is a good law. It is the best approach we come up with so far, and I support it.
John Warren: These monuments are not impacting anyone in a negative way. I support the Heritage Act. What we need to do is to continue to move South Carolina forward. What we saw with the Mother Emanuel shooting was a unification of our state against hate. You see, we have a strong state that was unified, that we share so many core values, and I will continue to promote as governor.
Q: You are two white candidates who want to represent a state where one out of every three is not white. How do you relate to the experience of minorities, and how do you help minorities, a larger percentage of whom are in poverty?
John Warren: I think as you look at my history as an adult, I support military branches. We have so much diversity in the Marine Corps. The same thing at Lima One Capital, we have a diverse workforce there. What makes those organizations so unique is that they focus on two things. Number one, we hire people based on shared core values. We train them to help them be trained for the jobs specific role. As governor, what I want to do is allow everyone to rise. I want to bring hope to all of the people of South Carolina. We do that with our education system. We need more school choice. No parent should have to send their child to a failing school. I want to do it with the tax code. I want to lift the taxes off of so many South Carolinians that keeps them in poverty. That is the way to provide economic opportunity and hope for all South Carolinians.
Henry McMaster: Over the years, I’ve been to the so-called corridor of shame. I have had experiences all over the state, and I know for example that poverty is the enemy of education. How do you get rid of poverty? You have to have economic growth. You have to keep the people safe and have good schools but in order to have the money to do these things, you must have great economic growth. That is why the economic prosperity of this state is my core focus, on moving all people forward. I believe that as the good shepherd would leave the 99 to go find one, that's what we must do. We have families that are dysfunctional in South Carolina, and if you look closely you will find we have several generations in the House. You do it through economic growth. You do it through having good teachers and good schools, we will have to consolidate some schools to save money, we're going to have to have trained police officers in those schools and we have to build this economy to open the door and provide a ladder for all those people. Technical colleges are the key to doing that, once we get them through the third grade. It's a difficult task, but we can do it. We have people dedicated to doing it, and I’m one of them. I will be in charge of appointing a superintendent of education. We are gonna get more done in South Carolina in education reform.
Q: I hear you both talking about cutting taxes. You said you'd want to cut $2.2 billion dollars, and Mr. Warren you've talked about closing loopholes. I don’t hear the specifics. Where are those tax cuts?
Henry McMaster: That is the income tax. Take it from 15 percent to seven percent is the highest tax and I take it down 15 percent. That would be just under six percent. North Carolina and Georgia and all the other southern states, Kentucky or Tennessee are competing with us. I talked to the people there and they are competing with us. North Carolina cut their income tax in order to compete with us. Georgia, just recently, about a month ago, cut their income tax to compete with us. What we did, we raised our gas tax when we didn't need to if we had just been spending all the money that came in from it on the roads, to begin with, and that's why I vetoed that tax. But when they saw us doing that, what do they do? They cut their tax on gas. We are in a fierce competition. That is why this moment the most important thing we need to do is have experienced leadership in the chief executive's office. We cannot drop the ball now. We cannot slow down now. We don't have time for on-the-job training. We need to push in the successful direction we've been going.
John Warren: Governor McMaster talks about how he's in favor of tax cuts, but he’s been governor for over a year and we haven’t gotten any. We need to change the coach. Number one, what we have to do is we need to go ultimately to a fair tax. If Tennessee, if Texas, if Florida, if those states can do it, we can do it. It would stimulate economic opportunity. You have to do it incrementally. One of the major steps in order to do that, what we can do is close the special interest loopholes for the sales tax. When the sales tax came out, 48 percent of the goods sold were taxed, but now it's down to 31 percent. If we got rid of those special interest loopholes, we could cut the income tax by half and the overall sales tax by half. That would create a ton of economic opportunity, and we got to have someone who understands the economy, who has created hundreds of jobs to get these reforms done, who understands how the economy works.
Q: This is the first time the candidates are running on a ticket with a lieutenant governor candidate. Odds are, voters may know a little more about you and less about your running mate. Can you tell what made you choose your running mate, and what is it he or she brings to the ticket that you might not?
John Warren: I’m very proud that I chose Pat McKinney. Pat McKinney is a Charleston native. He's been very successful in the private sector. He also has been chairman of the ports, and he uncovered the corrupt Richard Quinn. Richard Quinn was getting unwritten paid contracts and what did Governor McMaster do when my lieutenant governor exposed his corrupt antics? You didn't renew his contract. Who did you put in charge of the ports, then? Someone from SCANA. I’m very proud of Pat McKinney and I look forward to him serving as my lieutenant governor.
Henry McMaster: He's wrong about that again. I didn’t remove Pat. Pat, his term expired the year before I went into the governor's office. I didn't renew it, but he stayed there until I got someone to come in. My running mate's right there, Pamela Evette. Pamela and her husband David, and I see their son Jackson. She is a businesswoman, unlike anybody, certainly on this stage. She has won every award that there is. She’s number 7 on the fastest growing female owned business in the world. She’s won more awards in Greenville, but she is conservative. She was a Trumper; we were at the inauguration together and she brings great skill.
Q: Besides spending time with your family, how do you destress?
John Warren: I chase my 2 and a half-year-old all around. I took him to the zoo and I came back-
Andy Shain: Without your family, what do you do?
John Warren: I love working out, going to the lake and studying military history. Ultimately, I love spending time with family.
Henry McMaster: I love history; I try to read as much as I can. If you have not read the Walter Edgar’s “History of South Carolina,” they are still selling the books. I have a great wife, two great children, there's Peggy and Henry there and Mary Rogers is in Scotland, but I’ve got a bulldog named Little Mac. He's 15 months old. He's a beauty and I love that dog and he's a stress remover. He's better than squeezing those little balls you get.
Q: Despite having Republican majorities in the legislature and statewide offices, what do you think is the source of the parties division right now?
John Warren: I think you have three parties. You have Democrats who believe in a liberal platform. They enforce the liberal platform. Then, you have conservatives who believe in the Republican platform and you have Republicans like Hugh Leatherman who are Democrats and they support the Democratic agenda, and that's why the Republican Party is split. That's why we've got to get more conservatives to be Republicans and fight for the taxpayer and that’s what I will encourage as governor.
Henry McMaster: I do support Hugh Leatherman when he's right, and I oppose him when he’s wrong, like everybody else in the legislature. I think the party is split more at the national level than it is now. I’ve never seen such misleading information, such a lack of transparency, such lack of truthfulness at the national level, such division and I’m not quite sure where it came from. I’m the most transparent candidate that we have. I put up 17 years of tax returns, and my life is an open book. My opponent has declined to do that. We need to focus on the core issues that make us strong and keep us together, and that is the principle of this conservative Republican Party.
John Warren: If you want to talk about taxes, you should explain why you've been delinquent 31 times.