The two women hoping to be the next lieutenant governor faced off in their only debate Monday night.
During the debate at the SCETV studios in Columbia, Republican nominee Pamela Evette and Democratic State Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell defended their running mates and showed off their stark differences in experience and policy.
Evette, who runs the Travelers Rest payroll firm Quality Business Solutions, played up her business background and lack of previous political experience. “I think any time you bring a fresh perspective into something, you see things with new eyes, clearer eyes,” she said. “I think that is a huge advantage.”
But Norrell argued her political experience and connections in the legislature bring much more to the job. “If you need to get your car worked on, are you going to somebody who’s never worked on a car because they may have a fresh idea about how to fix your car?” she said. “No. You’re going to somebody who’s worked on a car before because they’re going to know how to do it.”
This is the first election where the governor and lieutenant governor will run on the same ticket. Previously, the jobs were elected separately. Voters approved a change to the state Constitution in 2012.
The candidates also starkly disagreed on expanding Medicaid eligibility. Norrell echoed her running mate State Rep. James Smith and said he would expand the program as governor, bringing in federal money to help thousands of residents not currently covered.
When pressed how expansion would pass the Republican-controlled legislature, Norrell said she believed public pressure and enough defecting Republicans would make the funding permanent. “Once we create an entire healthcare economy… and saving people’s lives, then it’s going to be a popular endeavor,” she said.
But Evette argued the state is already spending $1 billion more on Medicaid than it did in 2000 and does not have a way to pay for another expansion, even if the federal government matches 90 percent of the increase. “Even if it’s 9-to-1, you still have to find that money to fund it,” she argued. “And if you’re not going to take it away from the programs that are already in place, where are you going to get the money?”