James Smith: South Carolina must live up to its potential

Democratic SC governor candidate James Smith talks about jobs in South Carolina

Democratic SC governor candidate James Smith talks about the importance of an educated workforce in his office Wednesday Sept. 26, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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Democratic SC governor candidate James Smith talks about the importance of an educated workforce in his office Wednesday Sept. 26, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

Why am I running for governor? Because I see South Carolina as it can be … and I ask, why not?

My running mate, Mandy Powers Norrell, has the same vision.

Why not an economy that works for all of us? Why not a more than minimally adequate education? Why not access to quality health care for everyone? Why not a real energy plan that protects ratepayers? Why not a government that is transparent, accountable and that serves the people first and always?

Well, we know why — because we have had leaders serving themselves and not South Carolina, politicians who make decisions for their own political future and not for our future.

As we have traveled our state, we’ve heard it from so many who are fed up with this. Good people who reject the divisive politics that separate us instead of bringing us together to solve problems. We all deserve better!

Like you, we see the potential in our state. We know what we can do together. We know what we can be. And yet, look at where South Carolina is now. Our state is:

30th among places to do business (North Carolina is 7th and Georgia is 9th).

42nd in quality of life.

49th in best places to have a baby.

44th in best places to raise a family.

45th in best places to be a teacher (15 spots behind Georgia).

49th in academic and work environment for teachers.

49th in cost of health care.

44th in quality of health care.

We pay more for health care than most of the country and yet have some of the worst outcomes.

Yet that’s one of the easiest things to do something about. Henry McMaster refuses to accept federal funds that would extend medical coverage to 250,000 South Carolinians. But the benefits of Medicaid expansion go beyond improved health for individuals. It would keep small-town hospitals from having to close. It would also bring more than a billion dollars a year into our economy and create as many as 44,000 good new jobs.

This is money that we’ve already paid in our federal taxes. If we don’t take it, it gets spent elsewhere. Not taking it is like refusing to accept a tax refund when it’s coming to you. Who would do that?

And yet Henry McMaster and other politicians of his ilk do turn the money down. And the reason they do this is so ridiculous that it’s embarrassing: Because it’s connected to something called “Obamacare.”

Well, I don’t care whose name is on the program. I’ll expand Medicaid on my first day as governor. And South Carolinians will start getting healthier at a lower cost, while our economy gets a major shot in the arm.

Mandy, who worked at the local textile mill for the money to become the first in her family to go to college, knows how hard-working real people live. She serves everyone, regardless of party. So her House district, which voted for Donald Trump, has re-elected her time and again.

When I led troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, none of us asked each other whether we were Democrats or Republicans. We were Americans, and we fought together against a real enemy, not each other.

That’s the way we’ve served in the House, and it’s the way we’ll serve as your governor and lieutenant governor. We won’t play the games that are tearing our country apart. We won’t waste time railing against “sanctuary cities” that don’t even exist.

Mandy and I will address South Carolina’s real issues. We’ll raise teacher pay — without increasing taxes — to stop the exodus of good educators from our schools. We’ll see that kids are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, so they don’t give up on finding rewarding work. We’ll push pro-growth tax policies that strengthen our economy. We’ll raise the alarm against tariffs that threaten thousands of South Carolina’s best jobs.

As governor, I won’t strike political poses in a selfish bid to keep the job. I’ll DO the job and serve all South Carolinians. And just as we did in Afghanistan, we’ll leave no one behind.

Rep. Smith is the Democratic nominee for governor of South Carolina.

Democratic candidate for South Carolina Governor James Smith supports Medicaid expansion

Democratic SC governor candidate James Smith talks about education in South Carolina.