Forums this week

Republican candidates have been invited to talk at a Charleston County GOP Party at 7 p.m. Monday at North Charleston City Hall.

All the 1st District candidates, Republicans and Democrats, have been invited to appear before the Charleston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning.

Freedom Works and other conservative groups in the 1st Congressional District will hold a GOP Candidates Forum 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Ballroom of the Charleston Convention Center, located at 5055 International Boulevard in North Charleston. The event is free and open to the public.

To prepare for seating, RSVPs are requested at http://connect.freedomworks.org/node/343804

SUMMERVILLE — For a partisan candidates forum, 15 of the 16 Republican candidates vying for the 1st Congressional District primary on March 19 touched on predictable themes on Saturday, but a few managed to make arguments for being the one voters should chose.

Jeff King took advantage of the dilemma of distinguishing himself among the crowd of candidates with a good-natured joke.

“When I joined this race, I thought ‘How am I going to stand out?’ ” said King, who was the second to last to speak on Saturday.

“I thought that I’d be the only bald candidate, but (looking at Tim Larkin) it turns out that’s not the case. Then I thought I’d be the only engineer, but (looking at Ric Bryant) it turns out that’s not the case, either. And then I thought maybe I’d be the only person with five children (both Curtis Bostic and Andy Patrick do, too) — no dice!”

The jokes drew some of the biggest laughs at the Lowcountry Conservative GOP Breakfast Club’s forum at Kelly’s Barbecue on U.S. Highway 78 Saturday morning.

The near-perfect attendance of Republican candidates at the forum showed how competitive the race is shaping up to be.

The only candidate who didn’t make it, Keith Blanford, contacted the club to let them know he had a prior commitment in Virginia, according to forum moderator Charlie Young.

The race for the seat — vacated by Tim Scott when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat left open by Jim DeMint — is bound to draw more national attention in the weeks ahead as it features Ted Turner’s son, an ex-governor who admitted to an extramarital affair and, on the Democratic side, Stephen Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

Busch is running against two other Democratic candidates, businessman Martin Skelly and 18-time congressional candidate Ben Frasier, in that party’s primary.

Both primaries will be March 19. Runoffs, if necessary, will be held on April 2. The special election will be May 7.

At Saturday’s GOP forum, candidates sounded off on the themes of cutting government and spending, protecting the Constitution, praising Scott, slamming and vowing to kill “Obamacare,” along with talking about religious and family values, their spouses and children.

While most didn’t question the other candidates’ conservative commitments, John Kuhn did with one of the most spirited talks of the entire forum.

Kuhn recalled being a freshman senator in the S.C. Senate and objecting to a bill, introduced by Republicans on the second to last day of the legislative session, calling for a $250 million bond for the Medical University of South Carolina, University of South Carolina and Clemson.

He filibustered for two days and “got screamed at by the Republican leadership.”

“If my own leadership puts up a bond bill that we can’t afford and we’re going to lose our (bond) rating, someone has to stand up. Even some of the people in this room who are candidates today didn’t have the courage to really stand up to borrowing bills and stand up to the leadership,” said Kuhn, though he didn’t name specific names.

“Do you want a Congress who is going to stand up and fight? You don’t have to listen to the rhetoric. You can vote for the one who has done it for you (already) … My goal is to go to Washington and not join the club.”

While Kuhn is a former member of the state legislature, the congressional race includes current members, including Sen. Larry Grooms and Reps. Chip Limehouse, Andy Patrick and Peter McCoy.

Several of the candidates have served in other public roles, as well, including former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, former Secret Service supervisor (to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney) Andy Patrick, former Homeland Security policymaker Jonathan Hoffman, and former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash, who may have had one of the best one-line speech wrap-ups on Saturday.

“If you really want to shake things up, let’s send a sheriff to Congress,” said Nash.

Like Nash, who has returned from serving in Afghanistan, many of the candidates have recent military backgrounds.

Shawn Pinkston, who served as an Army Captain in Iraq, recalled the tough moment when he left a tearful wife and a special needs child for duty during the 2007 surge.

“That’s what you do when you’re a public servant. It’s what you do when you put service above self.”

Though Kuhn seemed quite willing to isolate himself to fight for what’s right, candidate Ric Bryant seemed to take a different approach and even uttered the b-word: bipartisanship.

“I’m an engineer and solve problems for a living ... I’m used to gathering the right people into the situation, kind of clearing out the distractions that get in the our way and try to affect the way we look at problems and dealing with them,” said Bryant.

“I even believe that there’s probably people on the other side, the Democrats, who are as frustrated as us by the lack of progress for what’s going on. I’m more than willing to reach across to them and work together, put politics aside and ... make some good bipartisan progress.”

Former three-term congressman and two-term Gov. Mark Sanford indirectly challenged Bryant’s comments on process.

Sanford said what’s missing in the political process is conviction.

“What I have seen over and over and over in my time, whether in Columbia or Washington, is essence. We don’t need better process, but more conviction in the process, more philosophy in the process and more will tied to the beliefs we do hold.”

Sanford also reminded the crowd of his credentials for cutting waste, namely top ratings by National Taxpayers Union Citizens Against Government Waste and Citizens Against Government Waste, while in office.

Despite a tearful admission of an affair with Maria Belen Chapur of Argentina in June 2009 and staying in office as governor until January 2011, Sanford is ready to jump back into politics and run for Congress because he fears what the massive deficit will do to the value of the dollar and, ultimately, life savings and the “American way of life.”

Sanford did allude to the affair, saying: “A lot of us go way back. Y’all know the good, the bad, and the ugly with me. The whole thing. It’s all out there.”

Then he talked about the “spiritual journey” he’s been on the past few years and recalled burying his father who died of ALS when Sanford was a senior in college.

“What hit me was how incredibly short life is and how each one of us are trading in our very measured days for things we might believe in. And the idea of the Constitutional framework of limited government is absolutely worth the investment of time that I’ve made in it and what y’all might make in it,” said Sanford.

Teddy Turner used most of his allotted time (all candidates got five minutes each), working to convince the crowd that he doesn’t share the same liberal values of his father, former media mogul Ted Turner.

“Is there anyone here who has heard of my dad before? Ted Turner. I wanted to get that straight. That’s the elephant in the room, so to speak. Everyone goes ‘he (Teddy) is too liberal,’ ‘he’s riding his dad’s coat tails.’ I’m tired of that …”

“When I was at The Citadel, earning this ring, my dad didn’t do any of my push-ups and he also didn’t walk any of my tours,” said the candidate, who teaches economics at Charleston Collegiate School.

“If I were riding my father’s coat tails, I’d be living in Atlanta, Ga., not at Bubba’s (Kelly’s) barbecue eating breakfast on Saturday morning. My name would be Ted Turner Jr. on the side of my truck and on my bumper sticker. Right? It’s not.”

The only woman in the Republican field is Elizabeth Moffly, who noted that while many of the candidates have recent experience in the military defending freedoms “on foreign soils” she was doing the same on a grassroots level at home.

She ran and was elected to the Charleston County School Board after objecting to the federal mandates of the “No Child Left Behind” law on local school authorities.

“Those that were working within the bureaucracy weren’t saying anything about it, even though they knew it was wrong,” Moffly said.