East Cooper Republican Club hosts House District 99 candidates
Daniel Island residents Jarrod Brooks, Shawn Pinkston and Nancy Mace, and Mount Pleasant resident Mark Smith, were asked a number of resident-composed questions about various topics that were randomly pulled out of a hat. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer.
The following are just a few of the queries fielded by the candidates, along with their responses:
Mount Pleasant Town Councilman/businessman
Q: What are your ideas for reforming the South Carolina sales tax and do you believe relevant legislation could be cast in 2018?
A: First of all, as a small business owner, I think we should look for every opportunity to reform the sales tax. We know that the only way Columbia gets money from each of us, as residents and businesses, is our tax dollars. We don’t have a revenue problem in Columbia, we have a spending problem in Columbia. Any way we can keep those tax dollars minimal going into Columbia so residents and businesses can keep money in their own pockets, so they can thrive and expand their businesses, I would support any and all of those efforts to make sure we’re growing our own economy.
Q: Do you believe as a first year legislator you will be able to sponsor or lead an effort to pass new legislation? Please answer yes or no and explain your position.
A: All of us hope to be on the important committees that are making decisions quickly, not that any committee is more important than the other. If I’m appointed, I will do my very best. What I will bring to every debate and every discussion, regardless of what committee I’m working on, is a thought of collaboration, a thought of openness and debating every single issue on its own. Just like we did with this club. We said we were going to grow this club from 35 people. I’m very proud that we opened up our arms and welcomed all. That happened from surrounding yourself with good leadership, holding yourself accountable and being open to new ideas and discussions on how we do things. How we run government is not complicated or difficult. We make it complicated and difficult. Just as I run my business, my house and town council, it will be collaborative and focused.
Q: If given the opportunity, on which committee do you aspire to serve? Please explain your qualifications for those committees.
A: As your town councilman, I have chaired the economic development committee over the past four years. I chaired the water supply committee. I sit on the planning committee. I sit on the judicial/legal committee and finance. All of those are important committees that really taught me and will serve me very well to become a better state legislator, understanding how local governments run, understanding the challenges that we’re faced with every day. I would be delighted to serve on any committee that they find me worthy of but in any good leadership, I hope that they would not pick favorites and appoint people to committees who want to be on committees but they align talents with the needs of the committee and the best interest of our state. I hope that where they see my talents, they would utilize those talents where it is needed.
Small business owner/franchise consultant
Q: Does South Carolina effectively use economic developments incentives to attract business? Please answer yes or no and explain your position.
A: I think this is one of the few areas that government actually excels in. I can’t think of anything that I’m excited for in the morning that our state and government does but I think this area is fantastic. We can use public policy as well as tax policy to get incentives to encourage public and private partnerships and to do things that are priorities to our local citizens. I think we should continue this trend for looking for ways to form public/private partnerships to further our priorities locally.
Q: Which South Carolina House committees are most important to District 99?
A: I think for me, and the reason I am running, is to talk about transparency and cleaning up. Most of those efforts are going to start in the judiciary committee. I am a strong advocate for term limits. I’m a strong advocate for violations being handled by a third party, not by the legislature itself. My feeling has always been that the answers to our challenges will come easier if we can find ways to eliminate the outside undue influences.
Q: If viable natural gas reserves are confirmed off the South Carolina coast, would you vote to allow extraction? Please answer yes or no and explain your position.
A: I would vote to allow extraction. I would want to be reassured that we have the best possible technologies in place to prevent what happened in the Gulf Coast with BP. I feel strongly about getting away from the dependence on foreign oil because of the complications that it causes our country and international negotiations, and the entanglements that we get involved in because of that.
Q: What actions do you believe the South Carolina House should pursue that would help with Clements Ferry Road, I-526 and Hwy. 41 traffic congestion?
A: The first thing we need to do is prioritize our spending in Columbia to make sure that we have the funds available for where we have major traffic congestion. Clements Ferry, 526 and the 41 interchange are all perfect examples. One of the things that I talk about when I’m out meeting people is that we have to address 526 and in particular the Don Holt bridge. In 2013 there was a Lowcountry corridor project that was set up that was meant to study 526 and 26. You know how may traffic studies have been done since 2013? Zero. That’s part of the problem. We have to address it because we have new developments coming in on Clements Ferry; we have an 18,000 home development that is currently breaking ground on Clements Ferry. Where is that traffic going to go? It’s going to go to 526 and it’s going to go to 17 via 41. We have to address it. We have to prioritize it.
Q: Describe your priorities for the first year of your term as the South Carolina House District 99 representative.
A: Lower taxes, better roads and more accountability in Columbia. How do we get those done? Tax reform is a major issue and has been talked about by the government and other leadership in both the House and the Senate. We need to abolish the state’s personal income tax. We have the highest marginal tax rate in the southeast. Lowering taxes and abolishing the state’s income tax means more money in your pocket at the end of each paycheck. How do we improve our roads? I maintain that we take 80 percent of the gas tax that’s been passed and return it directly to the trouble areas. What does that do? That also eliminates the horse trading that occurs in Columbia because it comes back to the areas where it’s most needed. This way we can control our taxes. In Berkeley County, we have a 1 cent sales tax. That 1 cent sales tax has gone to specific projects in the county. You can track them. You can maintain accountability and you have transparency. Finally, I would demand accountability by having an independent legislative ethics commission and by hogtying the ethics into code that can be enforced by our attorney general and our solicitors.
Q: As the House District 99 representative, what role would you play in local development issues?
A: Obviously it depends upon the issue and whether the state can have an impact. I am a big believer that the reason we have zoning boards able to halt their own development, they’re the ones closest to business people, to the residents, so really it depends on how the state can impact it. One area that we can impact, that I would focus on, is infrastructure—to make sure that our roads are built, that before developments go in that there is infrastructure to support it, and then we also have to make sure we have proper drainage plans in place. We all know if it rains here, it floods. We have to make sure we have drainage projects. We also need to make sure our education and our schools are properly funded.
Businesswoman/commercial real estate agent
Q: How do you believe you will be able to help District 99 voters in your first year in office? Please give specific examples.
A: This ties into a lot of specifics distinctions. A lot of us have business experience up here. I’m a business woman. I’m not a politician, but I think we’ll all probably say that so it means nothing. But in this district, it’s very diverse geographically. You have part of Goose Creek, Hanahan, Daniel Island and Clements Ferry corridor, and north Mount Pleasant. We really need someone who understands the issues and problems facing each and every one of these communities and the district—not just one or the other. My pitch to you all today is that I am invested in every corner of the district. I grew up in Goose Creek. I’m raising my family on Daniel Island. My business is located off Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant bordering the district. The mayor of Hanahan endorsed me a week ago and I will not be outworked for my community. I can promise you that. We need someone who understands every issue in our community. If you agree with me then I’m your gal.
Q: Do you support test drilling off South Carolina’s coasts to assess the available energy reserves? Please answer yes or no and explain your position.
A: No I do not. There are 82 million tourists that come down here to our coast. We have one of the most beautiful Lowcountry landscapes. You can not find the live oaks that we have here anywhere else in the world. We need to preserve that. One of the challenges we have with that though, is that when they come to visit, they never want to leave. My understanding is…that we don’t have the infrastructure to really support that here. I don’t want to sacrifice the beauty of our coast for offshore drilling. I would not support it.
Q: What is the one job position or experience of yours in the past five years that will most help you serve the people of House District 99 and why?
A: I have been a successful business owner over the last 20 years and the last three years, my primary focus has been commercial real estate. I am a numbers girl. I don’t want to look at wallpaper, paint colors and toilets. I want to crunch numbers. I want to understand for investors, what the best ROI is. That’s the kind of value and experience I think I can bring to the table. We send a lot of tax revenue up in Columbia, but we’re not getting our fair share or really understanding how we can do that. We need someone who can understand that budget process, who can add value to a committee. If I run a committee, I would want to be on ways and means or infrastructure bank, or anything and everything that had an impact on our roads here. Being more efficient, all of that comes down to numbers and business. That’s the value I believe I can bring to the table.
The Republican Primary will be held Nov. 14 and a run-off, if needed, will take place on Nov. 28. The winner will face off against Cindy Boatwright, the lone Democrat in the race, in a special election on Jan. 16, 2018.
For information on upcoming House District 99 candidate forums, see the “Save the Date” calendar on page 8.