The mood around the Newberry Opera House was festive. The square in front of the historic building was colored with signs from the current field of Republican candidates to be the next elected governor of South Carolina.
It was an early scrimmage of sorts, a time for candidates to try out their pitches standing side-by-side yet almost a year before the party primary.
But not too soon, says state GOP leader Karen Floyd. “It’s a great time to showcase that we’re back to the core principles and values that gel with the folks in our state. I think it will be a tremendous beginning for a great campaign season,” she says. Listen to candidates’ summaries MP3 4:53
She and the party faithful seemed relieved and ready to move forward. Before the panel of five began to address questions, unofficial candidate Lt. Governor Andre Bauer had to explain to WIS-TV moderator Judi Gadson why he was there.
Gadson: “Some would state that not announcing would give you some sort of strategic or perhaps political advantage and the question on the behalf of the people watching tonight is, ‘How can they take your answers in this debate seriously if you are not ready to seriously commit to this campaign and running for election?'”
Bauer: “I think I am more committed than anybody. I just said that this state is more important than running for the office of governor, (instead) serving out the next 16 months.” Bauer says that if Gov. Mark Sanford is still in office at the end of October, then he will officially run.
The panel took turns answering questions emailed from all over the state. Highlights included:
State Senator Larry Grooms on No Child Left Behind: Listen to Grooms statement MP3
Lt. Governor Andre Bauer on past mistakes: Listen to Bauer statement MP3
State Representative Nikki Haley on taking stimulus money: Listen to Haley statement
Congressman Gresham Barrett on being a social conservative first: Listen to Barrett statement
Atty. General Henry McMaster on working with the legislature:Listen to McMaster statement
The event was organized by the Republican parties in Newberry and Laurens County. The other questioners were WORD radio personality Bob McClain and Newberry Observer Editor Holly Astwood.