U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and S.C. Rep. Tim Scott emerged as victors Friday in the year's first straw poll among Republican primary candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.
Barrett and Scott were among the five candidates who spoke at The Citadel Republican Society's annual Patriot Dinner at the Holliday Alumni Center.
The dinner was attended by local Republican movers and shakers as well as cadets who are members of the Republican Society. It started with a prayer and a solemn playing of "Taps" by a bugler as images of the 15 Citadel alumni who have died in service to their country since 9/11 were displayed on a screen behind the podium.
All the candidates were invited, said Cadet Master Sgt. Steven Munoz, one of the event's organizers. After dinner was served, each candidates was given six minutes to address the group. The candidates drew names to determine the order in which they would speak.
The gubernatorial candidates went first, and Barrett was the first of them to speak.
He identified himself as a conservative and said he believed in the sanctity of life and that leaders should do everything they could to defend the right to life.
He also pledged that he would not raise taxes to pay for government and said the state needs tax reform, a sound infrastructure of roads, bridges and ports, and an educated work force.
"At the heart of education is reading," he said. No child should be promoted from third grade unless that child can read at a third-grade level, he said.
He pledged to recruit new businesses to the state and also said as governor, he would offer "leadership that will bring in a new era of cooperation, without compromising conservative principles."
S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley then took the podium. She talked about her small-town roots growing up in Bamberg and how she started keeping the books for her parents' small business when she was 13.
Her parents were immigrants, she said, and they instilled in her an appreciation for the unlimited opportunities in this country.
Haley, who represents part of Lexington County, said government spending needs to be curbed.
"The problem we face at the state level and the federal level is that government has no concept of the dollar," she said.
She said all votes in the state Legislature that concern taxes or have an impact on taxes should be recorded so that everyone will know how their representatives voted.
She said there should be term limits on elected offices in the state, and that all government spending records should be online so residents can monitor that spending.
To attract more business to the state, she would work on the tax structure, eliminating small-business income tax so small businesses would then hire more workers, she said.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said the state government needs a change in attitude to one of cooperation.
He said he would work as governor to encourage people to work, and he would discourage young people from having children too early in life.
"We have more people voting for a living than we do working for a living," he said.
"Your next governor is going to be CEO of the state," he said. He said he would encourage new businesses, work to keep the businesses already in the state and work toward a business-friendly tax structure.
"The next governor will have to travel the world and encourage people to invest in this state," he said.
Candidates for lieutenant governor were up next, and first among them was Scott, who represents parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties.
"South Carolina needs a new direction, and that direction is forward," Scott said.
He told the group that he was proud of his record of having never voted for a tax increase in 14 years of holding public office.
Scott, former chairman of Charleston County Council, said the state needs to build a private economy. "Government does not create jobs," he said.
"Government can attract jobs."
He said Republicans in government need to "stop spending like Democrats," and that our state's sovereign rights were the best tools with which to put a stop to the federal health care plan.
Scott said he would put forth a Senior Citizen Bill of Rights, and that among the candidates for lieutenant governor he offered proven leadership.
Bill Connor of Orangeburg said he was the only candidate who had never run for public office, and he was proud of that. "I'm not a career politician," he said. "We've got too many of them."
Connor, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and a 1990 Citadel graduate, said he sees the lieutenant governor's job as being primarily to back up the governor.
He said he would work to end corporate income tax and personal income tax.
"Government is not the answer, freedom is the answer," he said.
Another candidate, Ken Ard, was unable to attend, but a cadet read a brief message from him.
Among the Republican gubernatorial candidates, state Attorney General Henry McMaster did not attend.
After the speakers were done, the straw poll was conducted. Ballots had been given to each of the dinner guests.
The ballots then were rounded up and counted by cadets, under the scrutiny of representatives from the candidates.
Reach David W. MacDougall at email@example.com or 937-5655.
Straw poll results
Following are the number of votes candidates received in the straw poll at The Citadel Republican Society's annual Patriot Dinner:
--Gresham Barrett 41
--Nikki Haley 32
--Andre Bauer 31
--Henry McMaster 10
--Tim Scott 63
--Bill Connor 28
--Ken Ard 19