Residents urge action

Erin McKee (center), president of the Charleston Central Labor Council, signs a petition asking Gov. Mark Sanford to focus on lowering the state's unemployment rate. McKee and others attended a 'Save Our Jobs' rally at noon Monday in Park Circle.

Political leaders and residents rallied in Park Circle during the misty Monday lunch hour to offer a message to Gov. Mark Sanford: Help solve the state's job crisis.

Those who spoke, nearly all Democrats, called on the Republican governor to put aside politics, including any presidential aspirations, and focus on the unemployment rate. More than 11 percent of South Carolina's workforce lacked jobs in April, marking the highest rate since the South Carolina Employment Security Commission began tracking the data in 1976.

"This governor thinks you create jobs on Fox News," said Lachlan McIntosh, a James Island resident and emcee of the event, referring to Sanford's appearances on national talk shows.

State Rep. Robert Brown, D-Hollywood, pointed to rural counties where he called the jobless rate "brutally ugly." In some parts of the state, more than one in five residents in the labor force is without work.

"If you think the unemployment rate is high in the city, come to the country," Brown said.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, a Republican, and Rep. Anne Peterson Hutto, D-James Island, spoke about the value of public education and the need to keep class sizes down and to keep teachers at work.

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Similar "Save Our Jobs" gatherings took place in Florence, Greenville and Columbia.

Responding to the rallies, Sanford said in a statement that Democrats voted to cut the state Commerce Department's budget and opposed his push to reform the state Employment Security Commission. He also said they ignored his corporate income tax cuts that would create jobs.

"We'd welcome these folks to stop playing politics and work with the governor on these reforms and others," the statement said.