Sheheen fires back about GOP criticism

Vincent Sheheen

COLUMBIA -- Democratic nominee for governor Vincent Sheheen said Tuesday that Republicans are trying to divert attention from the need to create jobs and restore trust in government by raising questions about where he stands on national policy issues, such as health care reform.

Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, said he has been clear about his positions on health care reform and abortion policies, despite criticism from the GOP. His comments came at a press conference to announce the endorsement of more than 30 mayors from across the state, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley who first announced his support for Sheheen in January.

Sheheen said he has answered questions throughout his campaign about his national policy stances, such as abortion rights.

"My answer is the same: I support life. I have always supported life and my voting reflects that," he said.

Likewise, Sheheen said he has laid out his position on the new federal health care law, including his concerns about the expense and the burden to small businesses. But the new law has components that will remedy long-standing issues in the country that only a "bitter partisan" would find fault with, such as denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

"I think it's the next governor's job to stand up against things that aren't helpful to South Carolina within the health care law," he said, adding that he would do just that if elected.

It is unclear where Sheheen stands on the individual mandate that Americans have health insurance and whether he supports the court challenge on the new law by the state Attorney General Henry McMaster, a Republican. Sheheen's campaign didn't immediately respond to questions Tuesday on the matter.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Greer Mayor Rick Danner said they are most concerned about the issues that affect South Carolina more directly, and they believe that Sheheen's platform delivers the best approach for combating the challenges. Both Benjamin and Danner were at the press conference Tuesday.

"This race is about South and the issues that are important to South Carolinians," Benjamin said. "I think what you'll find in Vincent Sheheen is a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road fiscal conservative who is focused on tax policy and public education and putting people back to work."

Sheheen's opponent and Republican nominee for governor Nikki Haley wants more answers from Sheheen, Haley's campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.

"Like the politician and trial lawyer he is, Vince Sheheen is hemming and hawing when asked a simple question about whether he supports a law that will cost our state nearly $1 billion, fine our citizens if they don't buy health insurance, and put government bureaucrats between doctors and patients," Godfrey said in a statement. "Nikki Haley has no problem being unequivocal: Obamacare is bad for the patients, doctors, and businesses of our state and as governor she will fight it every chance she gets."

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.