Boatwright mace forum

Democrat Cindy Boatwright, left, answers a question Monday night alongside Republican Nancy Mace, center while Melinda Hamilton, president of the Charleston League of Women Voters moderates their debate. Both women are running for S.C. House District 99. Caitlin Byrd/Staff

The two women fighting to represent South Carolina's House District 99 shook hands with each other at the beginning of a candidate forum Monday night, but not at the end.

At the start, both Republican Nancy Mace and Democrat Cindy Boatwright agreed on a host of issues. Both pointed to a need for ethics reform, pledged to be transparent with constituents and questioned the effectiveness of Act 388, which exempted owner-occupied homes from the property taxes that fund school operations.

By the fourth question, though, the differences started cropping up.

"I believe the Second Amendment, as written, is good enough," said Mace, who in 1999 became the first female to graduate from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets. 

Boatwright, a mental health counselor making her first bid for office, said she grew up with gun owners but would like to see what she called common sense gun reform.

"There's nobody who can't wait a few days for a gun," Boatwright said, saying she was in favor of extending the three-day waiting period for background checks.

Though the two women opposed offshore drilling off South Carolina's coast, it wasn't long before they opposed each other yet again. On abortion, Boatwright said she wanted the government to "stay out of my personal business."

Mace said she was against abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or if the pregnancy endangered the life of the mother.

During closing statements, Boatwright called Mace an "alt-right conservative" and referenced an alleged Facebook post by Mace stating her support for arming teachers with guns.

"That's a lie!" Mace said. 

"I saw it," Boatwright said back.

"Let me pull it up," Mace said, her fingers typing away on her laptop.

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When Mace tried to defend herself, the moderator said the rules did not allow for a rebuttal of closing statements. Neither Mace nor Boatwright shook hands at the end of the forum, which is customary. 

"We are both passionate and fighting for this district," Boatwright said after the event, adding, "It's clear that we are very different candidates."

Mace said her opponent decided to go negative and make a false statement at the end.

"I'm not going to take that lying down," Mace said afterward. "We need fighters in Columbia. We need strong women, business-minded women."

Their special election is set for Jan. 16. The district covers parts of Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, the Cainhoy peninsula, Hanahan and Goose Creek. 

The district was last represented by Republican state Rep. Jim Merrill, who resigned his seat before pleading guilty in the ongoing Statehouse probe.

The event was hosted by the Daniel Island News and the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area. More than 75 people attended the hour-long forum at Holy Cross Community Center on Daniel Island.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.