by Bob Gatty.
Three of the Democratic Congressional candidates seeking the nomination to oppose Rep. Tom Rice in the November 6 general election all pledged last night to support the nominee elected in the June 12 Democratic primary.
That pledge of unity was made by candidates Dr. Bruce Fisher, Mal Hyman and Bill Hopkins at a Candidates Forum sponsored by North Strand Democrats. Held at the North Myrtle Beach Library, the meeting room was packed with citizens interested in hearing the candidates’ views on key issues.
A fourth candidate, state Rep. Robert Williams was unable to attend.
“We’ve already agreed to trade our lists after this campaign is over to make sure we are a united party,” said Hyman of the three candidates at the Forum. Fisher and Hopkins concurred.
The comment came following a question regarding how Horry County Democrats can compete against better financed Republicans like Rice, especially in the aftermath of the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities, as long as it is done independently of a party or candidate.
“That was a horrible decision,” said Hyman. “It defines the freedom to buy an election.”
To combat that decision, Fisher said it is essential for Democrats to retake the House and Senate this November and elect a new president in 2020.
“We’ve got to come together and get this done,” said Hopkins. “We just can’t go on like this.”
To succeed, Hopkins said Democrats must bring together the many groups that, generally, support the party and get them organized, referring to the many young people concerned about guns and school safety, those concerned about racial disparities, equality, women’s rights and LGBT issues.
“The Republican party is all about rich people and corporations, but they are all united,” he said. “But it’s looking brighter now in South Carolina and there is hope that one of us can actually beat Tom Rice.”
Democratic Congressional Candidates on the Issues
Fisher, Hyman and Hopkins generally agreed on many issues, opposing offshore drilling and seismic testing, protecting Social Security, Medicare and the VA from privatization, improving health care and education funding, and opposing funding of private and charter schools through a taxpayer-supported voucher system.
Regarding South Carolina’s teacher shortage, Hyman contended that “we are pulling the bottom half of college graduates into teaching.” Schools are underfunded, he said. “We have to fund teachers and give them our respect.”
Fisher strongly opposed taxpayer-supported vouchers for private schools as supported by President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “The government is in the business of supporting public schools,” he asserted. “We’re 50th out of 50 states in public education. We need to increase teachers’ salaries to attract and keep them. You get what you pay for. “
Hopkins also opposed vouchers and said the federal government should provide tax breaks for teachers and help with student loan repayment. “I want the best people teaching my children, not those who don’t want to be there,” he said.
Opposing offshore drilling, Hyman said coastal areas would take all the risk while the oil would be sold elsewhere. “It’s not a matter of when there will be a leak, but when,” said Hopkins. “If we were to have a spill like the Horizon spill in the Gulf, every inch of our coastline would be destroyed,” added Fisher.
The three Democratic Congressional candidates also supported making medical marijuana available in South Carolina and decriminalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana.
In addition, while expressing support for the 2nd Amendment, they supported banning the sale of high capacity weapons and bump stocks. All said they do not, and will not, accept support or financial contributions from the National Rifle Association.
Hopkins said he owns four shotguns and takes his son hunting. But on the issue of assault-type weapons, “common sense has left the room.”
“I don’t know why you need an assault rifle, bump stocks and all of that,” he said, adding that he would support legislation forcing anyone convicted of domestic violence to give up their guns.
“Common sense” legislation is needed to strengthen background checks, said Fisher.
On immigration, the three candidates said they support continuation of the DACA program and blasted Trump for attempting to end it. “Why do we want to break up families?” asked Fisher. “I think the symbol of America is the Statue of Liberty, not a wall,” said Hyman. Hopkins supported providing the Dreamers a path to citizenship.
The candidates were asked what should be done to attract more Republican female voters to the Democratic party.
“We’ve got to focus on the issues that working people, including women, care about,” said Hopkins.
Hyman said “domestic terrorism” is a “plague,” and called for policies to provide funding for child care, for raising the minimum wage, for guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.
“I’m a pro-choice person,” said Fisher. “I don’t believe (abortions) should be the primary form of birth control, but I would like to see the statistics on the number of Republican women who have been faced with unwanted pregnancy.”
Hyman, who was the party’s nominee against Rice two years ago, has been a teacher all his life, teaching in public schools and the prison system. He said Trump “doesn’t respect the rule of law and is a racist.” He stressed that he is not taking contributions from lobbyists and corporations. “I don’t think you can serve two masters,” he said.
Hopkins, a lawyer from Pauley’s Island, said the Democratic party “must put up electable candidates without sacrificing our values.” He said the focus must be on supporting working people. “We’ve got to work together to do things for this district,” he declared.
Fisher, a clinical psychologist from Longs, SC and a Vietnam veteran, said party label “doesn’t really matter. We have to stop worrying about strict party affiliations. I will reach out to Republicans who are willing to listen. We need give and take. Negotiation. Right now, nothing gets done. I want to change that.”
Kudos to North Strand co-chair Verlene DeWitt for serving as MC and to all those who participated. The questions were right on point, and while there was not much difference in positions on key issues, attendees got a first-hand look at the candidates’ approach to the position they seek.
To view photos from the Forum, please click here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/140923467@N04/albums