COLUMBIA — Patrick Caster, chief administrative officer of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, says he will challenge state Rep. Derham Cole in next summer's House District 32 Republican primary.
Caster has never run for public office before. The closest thing he has to political experience is when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to her Regulatory Review Task Force, which recently issued its final report.
As a health care administrator for 25 years, Caster certainly has a lot of knowledge about some of the legislature's most pressing issues -- including the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act and the funding of the state's Certificate of Need program -- but he said the main reason he wants to run is to turn House District 32 into "an influential seat in the legislature."
"It's not so much about a voting record as it is about having real clout in terms of political capital and really being a force there even beyond Spartanburg," Caster said. "It's my feeling that Spartanburg, when you look at our population and our contribution, we're getting disproportionately low share of state resources. And so I would obviously look to change that."
Caster chatted with The Buzz recently about his candidacy. Below is an edited transcript:
BUZZ: What made you want to run for the State House?
CASTER: it's really about leadership. Governor Nikki Haley appointed me to the Regulatory Reform Task Force. We just delivered our final report, and so I spent the last 16 months or so looking at ways of shrinking government. And it was something that I think was long overdue, something I enjoyed doing, and it 's something that I think needs to be done at all levels of government. That was really one of the main motivators for me to get involved.
Obviously healthcare is in the news lately and a lot of people think that this issue is purely a federal issue. But it really is not. In fact, health care is about as local as you can get. The relationship a person has with their physician is the most trusted relationship, in most instances, they have outside of their family. ... I believe there is going to be more opportunities for state government to get involved in fixing the issues with health care. If we continue to see, for instance, the national Affordable Care Act having major issues, there is still going to be a need to address some of the issues in health care and I believe if we don't do it at the local level in the states then obviously they will be looking to a federal solution once again and so that's one of the main motivators as well.
BUZZ: What are your views on the Affordable Care Act?
CASTER: Well I really just don't see anything in the act that controls cost. In fact just the opposite, there are many things in the act that are additive to cost, by mandating more inclusive coverage that is naturally going to drive up the cost. so I really just think it misses the mark in terms of solving the affordability problem which really the issue is the affordability of health care. And I don't think it does much at all to make it more affordable.
BUZZ: Do you think South Carolina should expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act?
CASTER: That's an interesting question.
I can certainly see why the governor has elected not to expand Medicaid because you're going to have the state ending up with part of the bill for that eventually. There is certainly some things that you'd like to see some changes in the program that make it more efficient and better for the members that are covered. I think 22 states opted not to expand Medicaid and you now I can certainly see the logic in that.
BUZZ: What do you think about the state legislature upholding Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of the Certificate of Need program? Should the legislature restore the funding?
CASTER: It certainly is a very unique situation to have the law on the books but no enforcement authority, or at least no funding for the enforcement of it. I'd like to see it overhauled before it even gets refunded just because once things get back to normal a lot of times there is just not a lot of motivation to get things changed. So I worry that if you refund it right away is there going to be as much energy around reforming it? If we do it all at the same time -- reform it, fund it -- I think that might be a better choice.
BUZZ: Any particular reason why you chose to run against Rep. Derham Cole?
CASTER: I keep going back to leadership. That's our goal, is having a very high degree of leadership in that seat. It's not so much about a voting record as it is about having real clout in terms of political capital and really being a force there even beyond Spartanburg. It's my feeling that Spartanburg, when you look at our population and our contribution, we're getting disproportionately low share of state resources. I would obviously look to change that.
The other thing that's top on my agenda is economic development. I've been in business for 25 years, my goal would be to have a great influence on economic development in Spartanburg County. I'll give you an example: I think even Gov. Haley's detractors might concede that one of her big strengths is if you get her in front of business owner that its considering three or four states to relocate his company to, I would put my money on Nikki Haley every time. She's very effective at convincing these CEOs that South Carolina is the place for them to be, and we don't have that same force in district 32 that I would like to see.
BUZZ: Have you spoken to Gov. Nikki Haley about your candidacy, to ask for her support?
CASTER: I have not.