In the only debate Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham agreed to before the Nov. 4 election, Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto emphasized the starkest contrast between the two candidates.
While he respects Graham, Hutto said the second-term incumbent spends too much time on television, acting like a “secretary of state” and “always wanting to put boots on the ground everywhere.”
“If that’s the senator you want, you need to vote for Sen. Graham,” Hutto said Monday before the S.C. Chamber of Commerce in Columbia.
Hutto said he would focus more on South Carolina’s needs and less on foreign conflicts.
The men were cordial for the most part. However, Hutto took one swipe at Graham, accusing him of “fear-mongering.”
“He's good at: ‘The sky is falling. The sky is falling,’ ” Hutto said.
“Three thousand died on 9/11,” Graham said, explaining his focus on foreign policy issues. “I worry about 3 million on the next attack if these nut jobs can get weapons of mass destruction. So yes, I am very much worried about what happens over there.”
The debate was Graham and Hutto’s first and last meeting. Graham declined an invitation earlier this month to debate Hutto and petition candidate Thomas Ravenel of Charleston on S.C. ETV.
Ravenel and Libertarian Victor Kocher of West Columbia were not invited to take part in the chamber event, which lasted about 45 minutes.
Hutto said at the State House, he’s known as a “pragmatic problem solver,” adding he would be a “different kind of senator” in Washington.
“Washington is broken. If you keep sending the same people back, year after year after year, you’re not going to change things,” he said.
But Graham also played up his reputation as a Washington deal broker, not afraid to tell members of the GOP “something they don’t want to hear.”
That’s the same reputation, he said, that earned him six Republican primary opponents in June.
“In our state, all of my sins — of working with the other side when it made sense — turned out to be an asset, not a liability.”
Hutto said he, unlike Graham, wants to raise the federal minimum wage and pass a law to ensure equal pay for equal work.
The Orangeburg attorney said he also wants to keep a promise to retirees that their Social Security and health benefits will remain intact.
But Graham said young people should be asked to work a little longer and retirees who are wealthier should receive less money from the government for subsidizing their health-care costs.
Hutto said the federal health-care law, referred to as Obamacare, needs to be fixed, not repealed. Expanding the Medicaid insurance program for the poor under that law also would help create jobs while helping people get health insurance.
Graham said the law needs to be repealed and lawmakers need to “start over – and cover everybody, that’s fine with me.”
On repairing the country’s crumbling infrastructure, Hutto and Graham agreed getting multinational companies to bring their overseas profits back to the United States could be a part of the solution.
Graham said he is working with U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to offer companies a one-time 10 percent tax rate to bring overseas profits home. That’s lower than the 35 percent they would pay, he said.
That money could be funneled directly into the federal government’s highway trust fund to pay for road improvements, he said.