Palmetto Sunrise: Winthrop Poll shows double-digit lead for Gov. Haley, other Republicans

The South Carolina state flag. (Staff file photo)

The Post and Courier sent the eight candidates running for governor in the June 12 party primaries a list of questions on issues.

We requested each candidate offer specifics in their answers and not include broad, vague statements used in stump speeches.

Honestly, that didn't work.

To help voters better understand the candidates' positions, we edited their answers to provide their proposed solutions.

If they did not answer a question with specifics, we say so. 

Candidates are listed alphabetically within their parties. They are:

Democrats

• Phil Noble, a Charleston businessman

• James Smith, a Columbia attorney and state representative

• Marguerite Willis, a Florence attorney

Republicans

• Kevin Bryant, an Anderson pharmacist, current lieutenant governor and former state senator

• Yancey McGill, a Kingstree real estate agency owner, former lieutenant governor and state senator

• Henry McMaster, currently governor and former lieutenant governor and state attorney general

• Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who has led the state's labor and public health agencies

• John Warren, a Greenville businessman

1. What are the best solutions for fixing schools in South Carolina?

Noble: The General Assembly should stop acting “like a mega-Board of Education, micromanaging all the schools in the state.” Give money to local schools to start their own innovative approaches to educating their students and tell state leaders “how we hold them accountable for success.” Pay teachers more and provide them “tools and support.”

Smith: Increase teacher pay above the Southeastern average and start initiatives to improve recruitment, performance and retention to address teacher shortages. Reduce class sizes. Expand access to early childhood education through the S.C. First Steps to School Readiness program. Improve access to high-speed internet, especially in rural communities. Promote innovation, such as project-based learning where students study real-world issues.

Willis: The Legislature must comply with the law to fully fund schools. Increase teacher pay immediately. Have students learn from the state's best teachers by streaming lessons online. Consider bonds or other revenue-generating options to fix buildings and look at re-examining how lottery proceeds work to fund education. Attract more young teachers by expanding a program that recognizes the potential teacher in high school and offer college scholarship money. Allow the governor to appoint the state superintendent of education.

Bryant: Allow private school choice. Expand scholarships for special needs students. Eliminate the state's Education Oversight Committee that oversees standardized tests. Boost teacher pay.

McGill: Audit the state’s education agency and school districts to find money to fix buildings and hike teachers' pay. Trim the number of standardized tests.

McMaster: Permit private school choice. Develop "a robust charter school program." Consolidate school districts to reduce costs and put that savings into classrooms. Have the governor appoint the superintendent of education.

Templeton: “Bring back shop class.” Allow private school choice.

Warren: “Demand accountability so that at least 70 cents out of every dollar spent on education makes it into the classroom.” Increase teacher pay. Allow private school choice.

2. How can South Carolina best grow its economy and find skilled workers for unfilled high-tech jobs?

Noble: Figure out what is needed “to prepare a child in South Carolina to walk into a major tech company after graduation and get hired on the spot. In other words, start with the outcome we want to achieve and work backwards.”

Smith: Establish programs with the tech industry and colleges for people re-entering the workforce or undergoing a mid-career change as well as our younger students. Expand apprenticeship programs to link more employees with jobs. Continue development of regional business incubators. Boost initiatives that connect retiring and former active duty military service members with new industry jobs.

Willis: Focus the Department of Commerce on rural areas and "find innovative, and perhaps unorthodox, opportunities for these areas. For example, if Marion County wants a casino, then let’s build a casino, regulate and tax it." Pass a law requiring equal pay for women. Expand programs where tech schools and businesses offer retraining for the unemployed. Veto budget bills unless the state increases funding for science, technology and math programs in schools.

Bryant: Work with public universities to lower costs. Promote technical schools.

McGill: Create a state authority for small and local businesses. Pass a law that eliminates unnecessary regulations, lowers taxes on small businesses and makes “responsible” loans to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Eliminate state income tax for those 65 and older to attract more retirees.

McMaster: Have universities, technical colleges and high schools build partnerships so students and workers can build careers. Develop the South Carolina Workforce Partnership to give businesses incentives to work with high school apprenticeship programs for students interested in skilled technical trades.

Templeton: Cut regulation. Work to recruit new industry. Allow apprenticeships and encourage students "to take advantage of our technical colleges."

Warren: Lower taxes and provide better training and apprenticeship programs.

3. How can the state best preserve its beaches and overall water quality?

Noble: Local governments should be more aggressive in requiring developers be involved in land-use planning and zoning. He supports an offshore drilling ban and is "disgusted by the Legislature tying the hands of municipalities trying to reduce the use of plastic bags and other denigrations to environmental quality."

Smith: Oppose offshore drilling efforts. Promote responsible shoreline and waterway management. Fight illegal waterways pollution. Appoint state agency leaders "who will responsibly enforce regulatory requirements." 

Willis: Stop any offshore drilling. Seek help with the private sector or federal agencies to find money to help fix South Carolina's public water systems that exceed recommended lead levels. Work with industry and farmers to keep rivers, streams and watersheds clean.

Bryant: Fully fund law enforcement at the state’s natural resources and public health agencies. Allow local decision-making, such as plastic bag bans.

McGill: Prevent offshore drilling. Push “conservation efforts” for beaches.

McMaster: Don't allow offshore drilling, especially since South Carolina sits in “hurricane alley” and has no room to accommodate refineries, storage tanks and truck traffic. 

Templeton: She mentioned accomplishments as the state's public health chief but did not offer specifics on what she would do as governor.

Warren: He opposes offshore drilling but favors an increase in domestic energy production.

4. How should South Carolina address its energy needs post-V.C. Summer?

Noble: Eliminate the corruption caused by “special interests, PAC money, and powerful lobbyists” that allowed the nuclear plant failure to happen.

Smith: Seek passage of energy reforms, including "a ratepayer bill of rights that will empower utility customers with more accountability, more transparency, and more competitive rates." Create a consumer advocate in the state attorney general’s office. Elevate the S.C. Energy Office to Cabinet level where it can craft an energy plan. Expand access to energy efficiency, weatherization and renewable energy programs.

Willis: Protect ratepayers from shelling out more money for Summer's abandoned reactors. Expand opportunities for renewable energy — including solar, wind and biomass. 

Bryant: Repeal the act that allowed S.C. Electric & Gas to charge customers for the reactors during construction. Preserve the abandoned equipment at the Fairfield County site so it can be sold to help repay customers. Sell state-owned Santee Cooper after an independent advisor determines its value. Prohibit state agencies from paying outside lobbyists.

McGill: Launch a full-scale investigation into the project's failure. Seek to "protect the jobs of the regular (utility) employees who had nothing to do with this debacle."

McMaster: SCE&G should stop charging ratepayers for the project and refund the money already paid. Veto any legislation that requires the ratepayers to pay "another cent for these reactors." Sell Santee Cooper. "For the future we must strengthen the regulatory process the Legislature created over the years."

Templeton: Freeze customer payments for the nuclear project. Eliminate the law that allowed SCE&G to collect the money and win refunds.

Warren: Fire Santee Cooper’s board “for mismanaging this project.” Stop customer payments for the project. Start a forensic audit “to determine where the money went.”

5. What is the best way to keep schools safe in the wake of mass shootings?

Noble: Ban assault weapons. Build schools with designs that enhance safety. Pay for schools to have resource officers on campus.

Smith: Have a certified resource officer in all schools. Improve training programs for teachers to identify potentially dangerous behavior. Improve physical security measures in school buildings. Increase mental-health resources in schools. Start a hotline to allow students, staff and parents to report concerns. Pass "common sense gun safety reforms" to include universal background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, banning bump stocks and restricting sales of to military assault-style weapons.

Willis: Institute comprehensive gun control. Install metal detectors at schools. Add additional school safety personnel. Design and repeatedly conduct safety drills. Increase resources to identify and treat people with mental health issues.

Bryant: Allow school districts to decide if they want teachers, other school personnel, retired police officers or active National Guard members to carry firearms on campuses.

McGill: Put resource officers at every school. Have a statewide zero-tolerance policy for threats of violence at schools. "Many of these tragic attacks could have been prevented had law enforcement been properly notified of the threats and allowed to take swift and decisive action."

McMaster: Provide a trained law enforcement officer in every school and "recognize and meet the mental health questions involved."

Templeton: Put an armed resource officer in every school. Allow teachers to carry a handgun if they go through “the highest levels of training.”

Warren: Allow schools to have a trained armed security guard. Have a single entrance in schools "so that no visitor can come in without being thoroughly inspected."

6. How could South Carolina better handle violence at its prisons?

Noble: Focus on rehabilitating prisoners "rather than caging them in hopeless solitude" to reduce violence.

Smith: Address staffing shortages and the lack of mental health care. Speed state purchasing "to get needed resources to staff in a timely matter."

Willis: Fully staff prisons with "qualified, adequately paid" officers. Impose harsh penalties on contraband suppliers. Provide some inmates with incentives for good conduct, such as additional or extended family visits.

Bryant: Increase funding and staffing for the Department of Corrections “to intercept contraband, disrupt gang activity and maintain general order.” Jam cellphones even without federal approval. Continue sentencing reform to reduce the prison population.

McGill: Start a “full inspection of our prisons to find out where the weaknesses are and correct them.”

McMaster: Continue having State Guard members patrol outside prisons to stop the flow of contraband over the fences. Press the Federal Communications Commission to allow South Carolina to jam cellphone signals at prisons.

Templeton: Jam cellphone signals "despite federal bureaucrats and cellphone lobbyists." Require prisoners to serve their full terms.

Warren: Merge the departments of Corrections and Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. Use the savings to boost corrections officers' pay.

7. What are the biggest gaps with the state’s ethics laws?

Noble: Legislators should not do business with state government while in office or become lobbyists after they leave.

Smith: The state needs more income disclosure for public officials, along with further limits on using campaign money. Reform the redistricting process.

Willis: Stiffen penalties for misconduct in office. Require campaign financial disclosure of third-party groups. Ban all fundraising by state elected officials and party caucus committees during the legislative session.

Bryant: Prevent lobbyists or public officials from working for a campaign, and ban former public officials from serving as a lobbyist or taking a job related to their former appointed or elected position.

McGill: Bring ethics oversight "under one roof" and stop having the Legislature police itself. Increase the number of State Ethics Commission investigators.

McMaster: People who go before city and county councils should have to register as a lobbyist. Make legislators subject to public records laws. 

Templeton: Approve term limits and ban legislators from appointing their family members to state boards and commissions. End the legislative exemption to the state’s open records law.

Warren: Pass term limits “to prevent career politicians.” End no-bid contracts “to prevent former government officials from serving themselves.” Require full income disclosures for public officials being paid by lobbyist principals. Mandate public officials who call themselves consultants to reveal more about their work.

8. How can South Carolina help residents with affordable health care?

Noble: Expand Medicaid. “I don’t understand why we as a state don’t want to invest in these workers to insure they are healthy and able to improve their lot in life.”

Smith: Expand Medicaid with a plan focused on preventative care and more efficient, timely and affordable health care services.

Willis: Expand Medicaid. Improve rural health services. Plan for the possibility that the White House and Capitol Hill could cut Medicare, Medicaid, food supplements and Social Security.

Bryant: Allow buying insurance across state lines. Have a sliding scale of Medicaid so people getting a better-paying job can pay higher out-of-pocket expenses while maintaining coverage.

McGill: Encourage “a competitive environment in the health care industry” and have senior groups partner with health care providers to bring in virtual doctor stations across the state.

McMaster: "Develop state-based solutions that allow the private sector to provide health care solutions." Push for more use of telemedicine bringing to boost health care access in rural communities.

Templeton: Prioritize free market solutions such as cross-border health insurance competition. Give patients the right to shop for lower-priced services and require health care providers and pharmacists to be transparent in pricing.

Warren: “Health care should be restored to the free market to make it affordable for all South Carolinians across our state. … And we need to do everything we can to rollback Obamacare.”

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9. If you could give the governor’s office one power, what would that be?

Noble: Create a statewide commission on "innovation and reform" to have state agencies rethink their mission and come up with “one ‘Big New Idea’ they could do to move our state forward.”

Smith: "The power to see South Carolina as she can be" but did not offer a specific answer.

Willis: Did not offer a specific answer.

Bryant: Make the Department of Transportation a Cabinet agency again under the governor.

McGill: “I’m not interested in a more powerful governor’s office. … We must restore more control to local governments where decisions can be made by the people who will be directly affected by them and where the individual citizen’s voice is stronger.”

McMaster: Ability over appointments — and removals — in all state agencies and departments "to promote efficiency, accountability, and excellence in state government."

Templeton: Appoint the superintendent of education and the secretary of transportation.

Warren: Appoint the superintendent of education and the secretary of transportation.

10. Where should the state be more assertive? Where should the state be less assertive?

Noble: More assertive — Gun safety and background checks for firearms purchases. Less assertive — General Assembly needs to meddle less in schools.

Smith: Did not offer specifics.

Willis: More assertive — "Find creative ways to bring more money into our state coffers, whether it’s through lottery reform and expansion, medical marijuana or regulated gaming." Less assertive — Getting government "out of the way" but did not offer specifics.

Bryant: More assertive — Bolster staffing and pay for law enforcement and corrections officers. Less assertive — Business regulation, in particular on how some people with convictions cannot hold professional licenses and regulations that require four-year degrees, special certifications and continuing education for some professions.

McGill: More assertive — Providing more government transparency. Less assertive — Taking the road tax money from one county and giving it to another “because their political representative has more seniority, power and control.”

McMaster: More and Less assertive — Collecting taxes. Proposed a 15 percent income tax cut. He also wants to eliminate all income taxes on government pensions paid to military veterans, law enforcement officers and first responders.

Templeton: More assertive — Cut government spending, taxes and regulation. Proposes a 2 percent income tax cut and ending "slush funds hiding in the state budget." Less assertive — Hampering open carry of firearms.

Warren: More assertive — Implementing school choice. Less assertive — Taxes and regulations that hurt economic growth.

11. Going back to 2010, what is the state’s biggest accomplishment? What is its biggest disappointment?

Noble: Biggest accomplishment — Removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the Statehouse. Biggest “shame” — Even after the mass shooting of a state senator and eight of his parishioners at a Charleston church in 2015, “our Legislature is so controlled by the NRA that it has not enacted a single law that would prevent” a repeat.

Smith: Did not offer specifics.

Willis: Biggest accomplishment — "How we came together as a state" after the 2015 Charleston church shooting. "Hopefully, we as South Carolinians have turned a corner in our long, ugly struggle with racism." Biggest disappointment — Legislature failing to take care of schools, roads and power.

Bryant: Biggest achievement — Transformation of the state’s employment agency in reducing the number of weeks the unemployed can draw benefits and turning it into a “job-finder agency.” Biggest disappointment — Abdication by state government and the Republican Party to halt abortions.

McGill: Did not offer specifics.

McMaster: Biggest accomplishment — South Carolina hit a 17-year low unemployment rate late in 2017. Biggest disappointment — The "jarring break of faith" from the V.C. Summer nuclear project collapse.

Templeton: Biggest accomplishment — Boeing's expansion of its North Charleston jet plant announced in 2013. Biggest disappointment — Lawmakers caught in the Statehouse corruption probe "have gotten a slap on the wrist instead of going to jail."

Warren: Biggest accomplishment — On-the-record legislative voting championed by Nikki Haley. Biggest disappointment — Politicians skirting ethics laws, raising taxes and funding Planned Parenthood.

12. How would you get the Legislature to work with you?

Noble: Because so many seats are gerrymandered, “there is no incentive for anyone to work with anybody once elected.” He wants an independent citizens' commission to draw legislative and congressional district lines.

Smith: "I listen. By listening, understanding, building mutual respect and a shared vision as a minority member of the House."

Willis: Plans to work with her running mate, veteran state Sen. John Scott, "to advance our legislative agenda." 

Bryant: When he was a senator, “I always worked to stand by my principles but to never take things personally. As a result, I maintained a working relationship with my colleagues despite our differences of opinion.” He plans to mimic former Gov. Mark Sanford in asking South Carolinians to lobby their lawmakers directly.

McGill: Would rely on his experience of three decades as a state senator in “navigating this system”

McMaster: "Leadership requires holding people accountable and building consensus on tough decisions, all while treating people with due respect. That is what I have done as governor and will continue to do."

Templeton: "The legislators always knew where I stood when I worked with them and even if they didn’t like it, they respected it."

Warren: "I will use the carrot and the stick approach. I will campaign with the legislators who support the conservative reform agenda that the people of South Carolina support, and I will campaign against legislators who are beholden to the status quo." Also plans to recruit conservative candidates.

13. Give an example from your past that provides a reason why should someone vote for you.

Noble: “Nancy and I raised two very curious kids and I knew how they benefited from our computer at home. I raised $600,000 from the private sector and partnered with Steve Skardon at the Palmetto Project to buy enough XO education laptops from MIT Labs in Boston to outfit 15 South Carolina elementary schools. The teachers reported back to us that the students loved the laptops and, on their own, had discovered dozens of educational activities and games that complemented the material they were teaching in the classroom. Instances of bad behavior and truancy declined.”

Smith: "While in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (as a guard member), it was my honor to lead American soldiers in combat — where politics, skin color, and religion didn’t matter —  and come together in common purpose for a common mission. Those experiences left me more more determined than ever to focus on the issues that really matter and see South Carolina succeed, whatever the political consequences."

Willis: "Several years ago, I sued Exxon Mobil Corp. on behalf of a small business in Darlington. After almost four weeks of trial, the jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict for my client. In other words, I was not afraid to fight a corporate giant on behalf of a small South Carolina company. Voters should understand that, if I need to fight any battle on behalf of South Carolina, I am up to the job."

Bryant: “I am a political activist at heart. My wife Ann and I first became involved in politics because we wanted to make a difference. We licked the stamps, went door to door and made hundreds of phone calls. But then we were betrayed. Candidates told me one thing and then as soon as they were elected, they went back on their word. ... You can trust that I’ll do what I say, because I’ve sponsored the bills and taken the votes to prove it, and I’m the only candidate that has.”

McGill: Did not offer specifics. 

McMaster: "My experience has given me the ability to recognize strong, conservative leadership and ideas when I see them, which is why I was one of the first people to stand with Donald Trump and Nikki Haley. Serving as President Reagan’s first U.S. attorney and South Carolina’s attorney general gave me unique understandings of law and order and what we must do to keep our families safe and stand up against the intrusion of federal government."

Templeton: Cites her experience as head of two state agencies to fire "entrenched" bureaucrats, cut millions in "wasteful" spending, limit federal government overreach.

Warren: “I am the only candidate who has built a company from the ground up and created hundreds of jobs in the private sector."

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.