JAMES ISLAND — Republican incumbent Rep. Peter McCoy and petition candidate Carol Tempel agreed that the No. 1 issue in their District 115 House race is jobs. They disagreed about how best to create them.

McCoy, who is seeking a second two-year term, vowed to reduce regulations and taxes, while Tempel, a retired educator, said the key to creating well-paying jobs is improving the state’s public education system.

Thursday’s debate was the first face-to-face forum in the district, one of the Lowcountry’s few that has seen competitive elections in recent years.

Both talked about how their work experience would shape their approach to the job. McCoy, an assistant prosecutor, talked about crime bills he has backed, such as increasing penalties for home break-ins during daylight hours, which currently are far less than break-ins at night.

Tempel brought the crime issue back to education, where she has spent much of her career. “I really believe we need to support good education so people have good jobs and they don’t have a reason to commit crimes,” she said.

They also clashed on the way the district’s lines were redrawn this year. District 115 now includes the Republican enclaves of Kiawah and Seabrook islands, and Tempel faulted McCoy for not doing more to ensure more of James Island was brought into the district.

McCoy noted the reapportionment was done after several public forums, where he didn’t see Tempel in attendance. “If Ms. Tempel wants to hold one person responsible, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

They also disagreed over the two local governments that serve much of the island. Tempel defended her decision to annex her home into the city of Charleston, while McCoy talked about how pleased he was to see the town of James Island reformed.

McCoy said he supported the completion of Interstate 526 because it would provide an important new route on and off the island in case of disaster, but Tempel said she opposes the project as planned “because I don’t think the communities have really come together to address the long-term and short-term traffic solutions.”

Both also vowed not to walk in lockstep with a political party. McCoy cited his support for giving teachers raises, despite Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s opposition.

More than 50 people attended the forum, moderated by College of Charleston political science professor Kendra Stewart.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.