Year of birth: 1966
Number of years living in the district you seek to represent: I have lived in Lexington County for 38 years and I have lived in District 87 for 18 years.
Family: Wife: Beth Atwater. Two Children: Caroline (16); Jim (13)
Education: Graduated from Irmo High School (1984); BS in Biology from Wofford College (1988); JD from USC School of Law (1991)
Current occupation/employer: CEO of the South Carolina Medical Association
Employment, military and volunteer history: Chief Counsel, Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, US Senator Strom Thurmond: 1991-1994
General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs, SC Chamber of Commerce: 1995-1997
Executive Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Gov. David Beasley: 1997-1999
Chief Operating Officer, Resolution Re: 1999
President and CEO, SC Manufacturers Alliance: 1999-2003
CEO, SC Medical Association: 2003-Present
Please list all public offices to which you’ve been elected, when and where: SC House of Representatives, District 87: Elected in 2010 and 2012
Please list year and office of any unsuccessful runs for public office: I have not run for any public office other than District 87.
Other political and government experience: Federal Government: US Senator Strom Thurmond (See above). State Government: Governor David Beasley (See above)
Key endorsements you’ve received: While I have had the endorsement and support of many organizations, such as, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, SC BIPEC, Palmetto Family Council; National Rifle Association (NRA); South Carolina Right to Life; NFIB; South Carolina Home Builders; Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) … the only endorsement that really counts is that of the voters. I am honored they have trusted me with their votes since 2010.
1. What makes you the most qualified person to hold this position? (Be specific.)
I represent the values and political philosophy of the majority of people in District 87 – we are conservative both fiscally and culturally; we believe in the free market and are pro-business; and we want to protect our liberties and have less government interference in our daily life. I have significant knowledge of and experience in the State legislative process. I am committed to my convictions and will publically take a stand. Finally, I have a sincere motivation to pass helpful legislation for the people of District 87 and for South Carolina - not to have a title. In other words, I am motivated to do something, not be somebody.
2. What will be your top three priorities if you are elected?
a. Regulatory reform – I plan to reintroduce my regulatory reform bill. It is a simple bill that would have a tremendous impact for our small businesses. It will require that all future regulations automatically sunset after five years. If the agency makes its case that it is a useful and helpful regulation, then it may be re-promulgated. If not, then the people and businesses of our State are free from government-mandated burdens. This bill doesn’t tinker around the edges. It is real reform.
b. Spending Reform – I will be pursuing various legislation to rebalance and reprioritize our spending. Our tax and spending policies are so out of whack we can’t afford what we really need. We currently have more corporate welfare exemptions than we actually have revenue; we continuously remain behind on meeting our education funding formulas and we have crumbling roads and bridges we can’t afford to fix. Meanwhile, we have one of the highest income tax rates among states as well as high tax rates among manufacturers and small businesses. Each of these needs real reform and not another ‘study committee’ or ‘report’ without action.
c. Teacher and Student support by directing more money to the classroom. Each year we spend billions of our tax dollars on our education system and much of it does not wind up in the classroom. Our teachers need and deserve our respect and support. That is why each year I have supported pay raises for our teachers. However, I have introduced legislation and created a worthy conversation regarding how much of our money actually makes it to the classroom. H.4261 redefines ‘class room instruction’ in such a way that more money would be spent where it should be.
3b. For incumbents: What do you consider your most significant accomplishments in this office?
a) Leading opposition to Medicaid Expansion. No one wants to deny access to people in need. However, the plan proposed did nothing to actually expand care for the needy. Instead it offered false hope to our neediest citizens while increasing the state budget by $300 to $630 million in new revenues upon full implementation. Proponents wanted to jump in and deal with the fall-out later. That was not a plan; it was a trick. That was not compassionate; it was cruel. Notably, my opposition to expansion was against my personal interests. As many hospital and business leaders supported expansion, and as CEO of the SC Medical Association, my job was threatened.
b) Introducing a stand-alone bill that narrowed the definition of money to the classroom. Sometimes legislative accomplishments are the introduction of a solution to a problem and the ensuing discussion. This bill narrowed the definition by requiring that money for instruction in the classroom literally be for teaching purposes in the class and not for such things as athletic fields or more employees in the District Offices. It was not considered germane as an amendment to the House budget, but the House Chairman of Education was a co-sponsor, members of House Ways and Means were supportive and both gubernatorial candidates have endorsed the idea. Many believe that this will be the most effective way to increase money in education.
c) Passage of Regulatory Reform bill in the House. (Explanation of the bill in Question 2.) This was a great step forward in making progress towards true reform.
d) Work to pass Emma’s Law. Sen. Lourie carried the water on this bill and Rep. Rick Quinn deserves credit for ushering the bill through House Judiciary. However, this bill was personal to me as the Longstreets are friends. Our children go to school together and Beth and Karen are friends. I worked hard to get support for this bill and continued to call for its consideration after a year of languishing in the House Judiciary committee. I am not happy that the blood alcohol level is so high but I am pleased that we made strides in strengthening our DUI laws.
4. Describe at least one significant political position you hold that would clash with your political base.
It seems to me that this question is designed to signify nobility or honor in taking a stand against one’s base, or to somehow demonstrate strength in standing against those who supported you. Simply put, I don’t have any significant clashes with my base, but rather with other members of the General Assembly, including the power brokers in my own party.
Examples of this conflict with my own party in an effort to honestly represent my base occurred with my votes on this year’s State budget and the ethics bill. I voted against the budget when it would have been easy to “go along” with the crowd or with “leadership.” I did so because I promised the voters of House 87 that I would not vote for a budget that exceeded the previous year’s budget by more than population growth and the consumer price index. This year’s budget exceeded this measure by tens of millions of dollars. In addition, I voted against the ethics bill when many believed that we should take what we could and come back next year for further reform. It is my experience that once major bills are passed, they are rarely addressed the next year. While I supported much of what was in the House-passed bill, it did not contain an independent investigative body, which is the heart of true and meaningful ethics reform. As it is, it is really campaign finance reform. I quite simply feared we would say that we passed reform and move on.
5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime, been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics complaint filed against you? If so, please give the details.
6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy or been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
7. Are there any personal details about you that voters would be interested in knowing?
The two things that are most important to me are my relationship with Jesus Christ and time with my family. That is why I see my elected position as a calling and not a career. I am a member of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia and have served as a deacon. I love to travel and have many work-related opportunities to see our country. I am a member of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce; I am very supportive of our local Young Life and its work in our high schools; and I enjoy attending Dawn Busters and ABATE meetings to hear from friends and constituents.