Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham did not debate two of his challengers Monday night, but his name came up quite a bit nonetheless.
Democrat Brad Hutto, a state senator from Orangeburg, and Thomas Ravenel, a petition candidate from Charleston, criticized Graham for his two decades in Washington as they offered their own stances on foreign policy, the economy and the role of government.
The absence of Graham — who said he would not appear because he did not want the race turned into a circus by Bravo “Southern Charm” reality star Ravenel — was noted — again and again.
“(Graham is) that D.C. Beltway insider who’s always rushing to get in front of a camera and often talks about foreign affairs” on the Sunday morning talk shows, Hutto said. “He never seems to want to talk about” South Carolina.
Ravenel — who ran for the Senate a decade ago and, in 2006, was elected state treasurer as Republican, only to resign and plead guilty to cocaine charges — told viewers he has changed and wants to move forward.
While Graham has said he would not rule out use of American ground troops against the Islamic State, both Hutto and Ravenel said they would oppose putting American boots on the ground against the terrorist group.
Hutto said the Islamic State is “a bunch of thugs” and should be treated that way, adding he supports the bombing of ISIS targets. However, he said it is not the obligation of the United States to be the world’s policeman.
Still, Hutto does not think the U.S. military should be scaled back, adding it could be used to help with the Ebola crisis.
Ravenel said the U.S. military should be used for American defense, not to nation-build failed states or re-order societies around the world “in our image at the point of a gun.” However, he added, the Islamic State has to be taken out.
While only two candidates debated, Graham and Libertarian Victor Kocher, who did not meet ETV’s criteria to participate in Monday’s debate, also will be on the ballot.
Hutto said the four-way race means he could win roughly 45 percent of the Nov. 4 vote, possible for an S.C. Democrat, and take the Senate seat.
On economic policy, Hutto said he supports increasing the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work among men and women.
Meanwhile, Ravenel said the national debt, nearing $18 trillion, needs to be controlled, saying the federal government does too much.
Democrat Hutto said he believes in a smart, efficient, effective government, adding it takes government to pay for public projects, including roads and schools. It’s counterproductive to run for elected office and be against government, he said.