District 2 congressional candidates square off in SCETV appearance

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who represents District 2, and his two challengers confronted each other in a brief face-off Thursday night on SCETV in a warm-up before their main debate next week.

Debate palmetto scene

From left: U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, Arik Bjorn, and Eddie McCain. (Photo provided)

Wilson, a Republican from Lexington County seeking his eighth term, and his two challengers – American Party candidate Eddie McCain of Leesville and “fusion” candidate Arik Bjorn of Columbia, the nominee of the state’s Democratic and Green parties – will face off for real Nov. 4 at River Bluff High School.

The district encompasses all of Lexington, Barnwell, and Aiken counties and portions of Richland and Orangeburg counties.

In their televised, sit-down appearance on SCETV’s “Palmetto Scene,” moderated by University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications Dean Charles Bierbauer, voters in the district at least got their first chance to see the three candidates together in a lively, but mostly civil, discussion.

In the half-hour broadcast, the candidates touched on subjects ranging from the presidential race to infrastructure, taxes, and immigration, among other topics.

Here are some of the highlights:

On candidates’ top priority

Bjorn: Infrastructure – “We have some 50 years of infrastructure we have to rebuild. We have 1,800 deficient bridges in our state. One-third of the dams that breached during the (October 2015) flood occurred in District 2. Our roads are unimproved…. It’s bumpety-bump all the way to work. We’ve got nuclear materials being transported over bridges that are deficient.”

McCain: Strict adherence to the Constitution – “Our constitution grants only 18 powers to Congress….. The 10th Amendment tells us that anything not constitutionally given to Congress or prohibited to the states, goes to the states…. But because Congress continually votes on legislation they’re not constitutionally authorized to vote on, we’re now $20 trillion in debt, we’re over $140 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and we have a government that spies on us and puts us under surveillance without any probable cause we’ve committed a crime…. The government’s just way too big…. I see our country surrendering its American sovereignty to this big, global, New World Order.”

Wilson: Jobs/National Security – “We must keep working to creating a positive environment (for job creation). I’m so proud of Gov. (Nikki) Haley and how she fought back, along with (Wilson’s son) Attorney General Alan Wilson, against (the National Labor Relations Board) to block jobs at Boeing…. Boeing obviously is in Charleston, but the tubing is made by Zeus of Orangeburg and Aiken; the cable is made by Prysmian of Lexington; interiors are made by AGY of Aiken…. (On national security) America is at war. People have declared war on us. We must have a strong national defense and peace through strength.”

On benefits/pitfalls to America’s two-party system

Wilson: “I believe the two-party system is best. I’ve worked very closely with the Republic of Bulgaria, (with their) party lists, and you have so many extremists whom can actually can get into parliament. I believe the two-party system works.”

McCain: “The Republican platform, for as long as I can remember, has been limited government, free enterprise, local decision-making. But when you analyze the (GOP’s) actual votes, the votes are contrary to that.”

Bjorn: “Standing for limited government has worked so well that last night 300,000 people reclined without healthcare in our state. The poorest of the poor. We’re not going to expand Medicaid expansion (in South Carolina). Just in our district alone, you can fill Williams-Brice Stadium over and again with 90,000 who don’t have healthcare. One in seven don’t have jobs. You have a Republican-controlled governor, General Assembly, most of the delegation to the federal government, and we’re in tatters. Our infrastructure is rated an “F” by the American Society of Civil Engineers…. We have such limited government we have no structure around us. The fact of the matter is, government has a job to do. It’s to link and protect individuals and communities and industry. And when it does its job, it’s a powerful, effective force. And when it doesn’t do its job, that’s what we see in South Carolina.”

On infrastructure

Wilson: “We should be working together, bipartisan, to get the roads fixed. On the county level, I helped reform … that we go to a formula system to pave local roads. On the state level, I worked to create the Infrastructure Bank board, which resulted in the Lake Murray dam paved four lanes. So, over and over again, I’ve worked for reform.”

Bjorn: “On the fact of the matter, infrastructure helps create jobs…. President Eisenhower would be rejected by today’s Republicans. He created the largest public-works project ever – the interstate highway system. We all got here today by that. Most of the food we eat is carried by that. Most of the commerce is engaged by that. Sorry, Congressman Wilson, but you voted time and time again against every major transportation infrastructure act…. The fact of the matter is, for every $1 billion you invest in infrastructure, you put 13,000 people to work. You want to solve unemployment? Start building things…. Beyond that we have information infrastructure. I am a champion of President Obama’s ConnectEd and ConnectHome, which would bring the Internet into homes and schools that don’t have it. You can’t expect people to be ready for the knowledge-based workforce if they don’t have access to the information tools that they need.”

McCain: “If we’re lacking the funds to fix our bridges from over a year ago when we had the 1000-year flood, and we have engineering companies in the Army in South Carolina who we pay to do their weekend duty, we pay to do their two-weeks’ annual training, plus we can bring out National Guard and Reserve soldiers… why can’t we allow them to start working on our roads? Fixing our bridges? It would certainly be less expensive.”

On taxes

McCain: “I believe you should cut taxes any chance you can. The American people are taxed to the hoot…. I believe if you do a tax, it should probably be a consumption tax, not a tax on a person’s labor. We didn’t even have a (federal income) tax until 1913, when we introduced the Federal Reserve System … which is nothing but a huge scam on the American people.”

Bjorn: “I’m pretty sure I pay more than Donald Trump. He won’t release his taxes, but even at my meager public librarian salary I think I pay more than him. And that’s the point. The corporate oligarchs, plutocrats, don’t pay enough. We need to raise taxes on the mega-wealthy, and we’ve got corporations that don’t any taxes. We have a society and a state that is falling apart … but we’ve got to raise the revenue for that…. There’s loopholes we’ve got to close. The common average voter understands what’s going on and it’s time to paint the state blue and a little green and get some revenue raised.”

Wilson: “I believe taxes are high enough. They need to be reduced. And also simplified…. That’s a defining issue in this campaign. Mr. Trump wants to reduce taxes, create jobs. The other candidate wants to raise taxes and destroy jobs. It’s common sense: if the private sector does not have money, they can’t employ people. And so the good news is, by reducing taxes we grow the economy, we have Reagonomics lifting all boats.”

On Trump/Clinton

Wilson (who voted in the S.C. GOP primary for Marco Rubio): “(Trump) was my fifth choice. But I do support him. There is no question I would be voting for Donald Trump over the other leading candidate…. I do agree he wants to create jobs by growing the economy. I appreciate his strong stand on national defense. And, I want him to repeal the Iranian nuclear deal. That’s putting all of us at risk. They still chant “Death to America,” “Death to Israel.” They mean it. And Obamacare. We find out that’s a fraud. And, thank goodness, (Trump) said he’d repeal that, too.”

Bjorn: (who originally supported Bernie Sanders) – “I’m with her (Clinton). I’m certainly not with the man who commits sexual violence against women.”

McCain: “…It’s been about constitutional judges; it’s been about secure borders. So, that’s what I’m all about. So I support Donald Trump.”

On immigration

McCain: “Back in March I took a trip to the border because I wanted to do my own research…. I interviewed people up and down the border. I had this guy look at me… he was a county worker. He had a beard. He looked at me and said, ‘Mr. McCain, all a radical Muslim has to do is to shave his beard and he looks like me. He said, teach them a little bit of Spanish, and he blends right in to the Mexican community.’ And that’s the problem that we have. It’s not just the poor Mexican farmer or Honduran farmer coming to the United States. We’ve got people all over the world that are coming across the United States (border).”

Bjorn: “A $25 billion wall never brought commerce anywhere…. The end of the day, bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. We had this conversation before whether it was the Irish, the Italians, whether it was the Vietnamese or the Muong; now it’s Hispanic Latinos…. We are more prosperous when we are more diverse…. When (Minn.) Congressman (Keith) Ellison leaves this country and comes back in, it’s because he’s free to do so as any other American. He’s Muslim. Does he look like a Muslim? You know that he looks like? He looks like a congressman, because he’s got that same (American flag) pin that Congressman Wilson does.”

Wilson: “I’ve worked in my law practice on that. Everyday our office helps people in immigration legally, even become members of the military. Then we have illegal aliens. That destroys jobs of our citizens. Takes the jobs of American citizens, and literally reduces the wages. The reason why, in this administration, the American family makes $2,000 less than they did eight years ago is because the illegal aliens depress wages. We need to enforce the laws we have. We have good laws, and that’s what I would favor supporting.”

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