By Jim Hulen, North Myrtle Beach Online.com
June 6, 2012 Myrtle Beach, SC – Sponsored by the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Strand Business Alliance, four Democratic candidates for the new district 7 congressional seat challenged each other last night at the Myrtle Beach High School Auditorium.
Moderated by Charles Bierbaur, Dean of Mass Communications Studies at the University of South Carolina and former Senior CNN Correspondent with questions posed by WPDE’s Tim McGinnis and WMBF’s Mike Maely, the event brought Parnell Diggs an attorney and President of the National Federation of the Blind, Gloria Tinubu, business owner and teaching association at CCU, Preston Brittain a private law practice partner and Harry Pavilack law partner and founder of Save our Cats together in one forum.
Bierbaur gave each opportunity to differentiate themselves at the very beginning.
Biggs said he would invest in the power of people, making the point he was born blind and was forced to know how to work his way through the system. He stressed his priority would be to do everything to ensure programs and funds come to this area so that people will have an opportunity to succeed.
Brittain was very direct and brief saying “I can deliver on promises. I can deliver I-73. I will protect Social Security and Medicare, the lifeline of many in the Pee DEE.” Brittain promised a devotion to help working class citizens.
Tinubu first spoke of her educational background pointing out to the gathering that she was the only candidate with a background in economics at the PHD level. She said she could bring 34 years of experience as an applied economist who has worked in the public policy arena.
Pavilack stressed the diversity of the problems within the district. He pointed out that if it was only Horry County “it would be okay. But the district has six counties up the road with 20% unemployment. How are we going to get these people jobs. I have owned factories. I can go to Washington and get them down here.”
From there on in, it wasn’t easy sailing for the candidates. McGinnis challenged Tinubu on her residency having spent most of her career at Clemson. Tinubu’ response was that she had always kept a home in Georgetown while working on issues in applied economics focused on helping people in her community. Maely challenged Brittain on having never held public office. Brittain spoke of being a lawyer who is by nature a problem solver. He expressed with pride at not being a career politician – “not a part of the problem.”
McGinnis asked Diggs, if elected, how much of his time would be devoted to working on issues associated with the blind and Americans with Disabilities Act. Diggs expressed pride in his voluntary service on behalf of the blind and being self employed for fifteen years. He promised to work for those who are not among those in the top 1%.
Maely challenged Pavilack on trust, pointing out that, to some accounts, he was $72 million in debt. Building on that Maely said carrying that kind of debt how can you convince the voters you can take care of their business and the debt in Washington. Pavilack said, “$72 million is just part of the game. I am just a promoter” and “that is what we need to go to Washington. That is how we are going to get things done.”
With the exception of Tinubu, all supported building I-73 but Tinubu differed only in her view that work on highways 501 and 38 should be higher priority. When asked about the key to diversifying job growth beyond tourism, Brittain based it on I-73, Tinubu, on financial incentives for small businesses, Pavilack upon bringing in Casinos and Diggs upon I-73 and dredging the Georgetown port and the Federal Government partnering with state and local government to insure every person has the opportunity to go into business.
Gay marriage was part of a lightning round. Pavilack supported gay marriage saying he didn’t see anything different. Tinubu tied it back to civil rights and supported gay marriage. Diggs said he supported marriage equality. However, Brittain said he believed marriage was between a man and woman.