Prison riots, the nuclear debacle and Donald Trump all came up for discussion when four of the five Republican candidates to be South Carolina's next governor got together for the first time.
Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, former state agency director Catherine Templeton, and Upstate businessman John Warren in a forum Tuesday at Greenville's Poinsett Club.
Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant was slated to appear at the Greenville County GOP's Bronze Elephant Dinner, but was delayed by a late meeting of the S.C. Senate in Columbia, where Bryant was presiding over a debate about a proposed abortion ban.
The dinner gave the four candidates who appeared, each speaking separately, the chance to sell themselves to key voters in the conservative Upstate ahead of the June 12 Republican primary.
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The collapse of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant was one of the most talked-about subjects, with all the candidates agreeing ratepayers should not have to continue supporting the $9 billion project that will never be built.
Warren said South Carolina residents should not have to bail out Cayce-based SCANA, parent company of SCE&G.
"That's the beautiful thing about the private sector," he said. "Investors take the risks, and the companies either do well or do poorly."
Warren also said he would fire the board overseeing state-run Santee Cooper, which the governor does not currently have the power to do.
McMaster has moved to sell the utility, and also said that ratepayers should not have to shoulder the cost of the failed project.
"We've had lapdogs when we should have had bulldogs" overseeing S.C. utilities, McMaster said. "Ratepayers should not pay any more, and they should get their money back."
Templeton said a governor should sound out industry leaders before making a decision about the future of Santee Cooper, arguing taxpayers would still be on the hook for the company's bonds.
"Never elect a leader who thinks they know everything," she said.
Yancey McGill, the former Democratic state senator from Williamsburg, touted his record of working with Republican governors from David Beasley to Nikki Haley, especially on economic development issues facing rural counties.
McMaster stumped on his economic record, calculating the state's 18,000 new jobs and $5 billion of outside business investment on his watch.
In the aftermath of a deadly riot in Lee Correctional Institution, the candidates saw a need to increase funding for the state Department of Corrections.
Templeton said law enforcement needs to be a priority when the state is allocating funds, noting that the state's Criminal Justice Academy is funded by patrolmen issuing tickets.
Warren said he supports combining the state Department of Corrections with the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon, something he said would save the state $2.8 million that could go to hire and train more correctional officers.
Asked about combating crime, McMaster noted his eight years as the state's attorney general and his ban on sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, which could pass as part of the state budget this year.
In the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, McMaster said he wanted to see the Legislature give local school districts "a down payment" on having a school resource officer in every school. Templeton said she would allow school personnel who are able to carry their own firearms on campus.
National politics also appeared in the debate. Asked if she could work well with President Donald Trump, Templeton noted she was interviewed by the president-elect shortly after his victory in the 2016 election.
"I was in Trump Tower before Kanye and Carly," she said, referring to fellow visitors Carly Fiorina, a former presidential candidate, and rapper Kanye West.
Not to be outdone, McMaster touted his early endorsement of Trump in the S.C. primary.
"I was ruled an idiot," McMaster said. "Then I was a 100 percent genius."