The Republican Party’s control of S.C. government and the GOP’s infighting are to blame for the state’s struggling schools and crumbling roads, an S.C. Democrat said Wednesday in response to GOP Gov. Nikki Haley’s State of the State address.
State Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell was the first female lawmaker to give the Democratic response to Haley, who gave her sixth annual address. The attorney is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party.
“Lately, you’ve heard Governor Haley call for unity. I agree,” Powers Norrell said, referring to the state’s unity in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds last summer. “But what she hasn’t told you is that the fighting is within her own party.”
Powers Norrell blamed divided state Senate Republicans for blocking a road-repair bill “while our citizens continue to suffer with tattered roads and dangerous bridges.”
A second-term Lancaster Democrat, Powers Norrell noted she and Haley both were born and raised in rural South Carolina and attended public schools. Twenty-five years ago, she said, S.C. roads and schools were in better shape.
However, Republicans squandered those advantages, she said.
“Are you proud of our public-education system? Are you satisfied with the condition of our roads and bridges? Are you confident that if you got sick, you could afford the treatment? In the past 25 years, our state has declined in almost every category. We’ve been duped.”
Powers Norrell also said Haley “turned her back” on S.C. farmers who asked the governor to request federal aid to help them recover from October’s historic flooding. She also blamed the governor for rejecting federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid system, saying doing so would have created jobs and given health insurance to more S.C. residents.
“While the (Confederate) flag has come down and the floodwaters have receded, as state leaders, it is our responsibility to continue to unify our state and help affected families make a full recovery,” she said. “If the Republicans could have given us the South Carolina we want and know is possible, they would have done it a long time ago.”
Powers Norrell said the Democratic Party “has made mistakes, too. Chief among them is we have let the other side define themselves as the moral party. But the truth is you cannot lead on moral issues if you mislead on substantive ones.”
Saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Powers Norrell urged S.C. voters “to come home to the Democratic Party,” adding, “Everyone is welcome.”