House District 99 race heats up
The League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area put out an invitation to both candidates in the South Carolina House District 99 race to participate in a public forum at Philip Simmons High School later this month. But only one accepted.
Democrat Jen Gibson and her opponent, Republican Nancy Mace, the incumbent in the race, are both vying for the seat – but Mace declined the invitation to take part in the forum, she said, because it is being hosted by the LOWV.
“I declined the League of Women Voters because I recently did a candidate forum with their group when I ran for this seat a few months ago,” explained Mace, who won three special elections for the post to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Jim Merrill. She has served in the seat for eight months.
“My positions haven’t changed,” continued Mace. “And I will not entertain a biased forum like the one they held last time, allowing my opponent to lodge a false allegation and not allow me to refute it.”
Mace is referring to a debate/forum she took part in with her former special election opponent Cindy Boatwright, a Democrat, in January 2018 at Church of the Holy Cross on Daniel Island. The event was presented by the LOWV and sponsored by The Daniel Island News. Regarding Mace’s recent decision to decline the group’s upcoming forum invitation, the LOWV stated they asked Mace to reconsider and sent her the following email message:
“The League of Women Voters has a long history of conducting nonpartisan candidate forums, but this isn’t about the League: It’s about voters. League-sponsored forums are designed to be a platform for voters to learn about the candidates who are on their ballots.”
Barbara Zia, coordinator of citizen education for the LOWV, hopes Mace will decide to participate.
“We believe that candidate forums are important to the election process and democracy and hope she will join us,” stated Zia.
Gibson issued a press release about Mace’s decision last week, in which she touted her own readiness to debate and took aim at her opponent.
“Each election is an opportunity for voters to survey the ideas of the different candidates and decide which ideas best align with their values,” stated the release. “By refusing to debate, voters are being denied the opportunity to make an informed choice in the voting booth.”
Mace countered that her platforms remain the same today as they were when she ran for the office several months ago.
“My positions, statements, policy, legislation and votes are available to every single voter in the district,” she said. “I recently won three elections in a row for this seat. Elections are about choices. And the voters already overwhelmingly decided they support my vision for our community, three times in a row, very recently.”
But Gibson believes that doesn’t give Mace “a pass” when it comes to engaging with voters in a public forum.
“No politician deserves an exemption or a pass from this process,” stated the Gibson press release. “The constituents of District 99 deserve to hear from Jen Gibson in a debate format to make an informed decision.”
Mace countered, questioning Gibson’s own take on the “democratic process.”
“She is on the ballot twice; once under the democratic ticket and once under the working family party,” stated Mace. “While legal, I find it particularly unethical. She is either confused or being dishonest with voters.”
“I evaluated the platform of every party in S.C. and filed to run in those that shared my core values as I hope any public servant would do,” said Gibson in response. “My party affiliation does not define me, and I will always vote my conscience and my values. My platform and the platform of both parties are clearly articulated on our respective websites. I believe there is full transparency with voters, and I assure her it was a purposeful decision on my part that I fully understood.”
When it comes to future debates and forums, Mace said she is not ruling anything out.
“I will consider a forum or debate,” added Mace. “But it absolutely will not be with the LOWV. And right now, my schedule is extremely full. I’m scheduling a full four weeks out.”
Gibson and J.A. Moore, a candidate running for House District 15, plan to take part in a “Town Hall” event at the Hanahan Library on October 15. An invitation is being extended to Rep. Mace and Rep. Samuel Rivers as well, noted Gibson.