Both the Myrtle Beach Republican Women's Club luncheon and the Carolina Patriots forum on Tuesday were visited by the same five candidates for Congress: Mt. Pleasant town councilman Ken Glasson, attorney Larry Kobrovsky, businessman Mark Lutz, Myrtle Beach accountant Clark Parker and Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond.
The luncheon allowed the candidates extended, free-form introductions of themselves followed by a handful of questions, while the forum offered more targeted questions and answers. You'll find clips of both events below, with some limited thoughts I had while watching.
In what is Glasson's first appearance on The Opinion Blog, he offers a pretty simple but effective pitch for someone all but unknown across the district he hopes to serve. Glasson succinctly described what qualifications he believes a candidate should have, then explains how he fills them. This could be an effective strategy where the first question for some voters is why they should spend their vote on him, and not a better known commodity.
An interesting comment came during the question-and-answer session as he described his opposition to European-style gun control: "We were the first state to secede from the Union. We're the first ones to stand up for many things, and if it's to fight and resist me registering so they can come take my guns - it won't happen."
Kobrovsky: The Constitution
Kobrovsky was likely feeling somewhat on friendly ground today, since a recent visit to Horry County brought him a surprise straw poll victory. At first blush, his candidacy is all about the Constitution: he mailed 60,000 copies of it to First District voters and he brandishes it at every appearance.
But despite his mild-mannered delivery, Kobrovsky is actually at the far right of this group. He accuses the President of "contempt for the Constitution," advocates abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, decries school lunch programs as "feeding the children of parents who lie and cheat" and declares a "crisis" of illegal immigration - even though strong anti-immigration groups acknowledge that immigrants are voluntarily leaving the country because of the recession.
More troubling, perhaps, is the pride Kobrovsky apparently takes in an ad he bought that many would consider poor taste, if not outright offensive, sarcastically suggesting the Obama candidacy needed affirmative action in its early days. Likewise, he decries the ethnicity question on the census form as a pretext for distributing money to "racial and ethnic groups," and notes, "This is a passion of mine."
Lutz is among the more effective representatives of the Tea Party movement: no political experience to tarnish him in their eyes, but a pretty substantial command of the issues and a generally respectful, professional tone.
His "contract" idea shows some innate political skill, and he repeatedly mentions his support for Rep. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America," a radical but serious attempt at providing an exclusively conservative approach to the country's problems. He rightly identifies earmarks and spending as only a tiny fraction of the country's debt problem, and about the actual problem - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - I think he has to be commended for suggesting "rescuing" them, rather than "eliminating" them (though critics of the Ryan plan would say the distinction is academic).
Finally, Lutz appears to be among the thought leadership of this particular crop of candidates - on a number of issues (such as a pre-session convention of freshmen to try to identify immediately achievable goals for the new Congress), I noticed his competitors saying they agree with his ideas. But while people seem to respond well to Lutz, I haven't seen much overt support for him yet.
I continue to wonder if Parker is frustrated by the fact that he's not given more credence as the Horry County candidate by either us in the media or those in the local political establishment, but if so, he's not doing much to change that. He doesn't play up his Horry County residency, and he doesn't say a lot about Horry County's needs from the federal government, except the occasional acknowledgement of Interstate 73.
There's a storytelling theme to Parker's campaigning that can be a little distracting, but his general message seems to center on his personal concerns about the future of the country, coupled with some basic conservative pledges against new taxes. And, on the other hand, he often deserves credit for brevity - when a short answer will suffice, he usually gives it.
The Thurmond campaign
Of the candidates in town Tuesday, Thurmond is certainly the best known across the district. Aside from the famous surname, his seat on the Charleston County Council gives him the largest constituent base to start from, and he's made a pretty concerted effort at getting endorsements from local officeholders: Myrtle Beach Councilman Randal Wallace effectively kicked off Thurmond's Horry County campaign, and just this week he announced the endorsement of North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley.
In the clip, it's easy to see why Wallace endorsed him. Thurmond was far more fluent in Horry County's infrastructure needs than any other candidate, deftly fielding some pretty aggressive questioning from local political consultant Tom Herron about whether these projects are "pork." Thurmond deserves some praise for being willing to swim against the stream with his more nuanced approach to spending, especially in the Republican primary, where the temptation is going to be to run as far right as possible.
At the Carolina Patriots forum later Tuesday night, moderator Tom Herron had three questions for the candidates. The first, characteristic of the Tea Party movement, centered on federal spending and the debt. They're all opposed.
The second question centered on cap-and-trade, a value-added tax (recently advocated by former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings) and the Fair Tax. Cap-and-trade was reviled, value-added tax was ignored by half the candidates, and the Fair Tax got wide support from them.
The final question was about term limits. Each candidate agreed in concept, but differed in their preferred version and length of the limits themselves. Thurmond's answer here is somewhat different than the others, as he argues that if term limits don't pass, he won't limit himself to an arbitrary number of terms because, he says, it would handicap the district.
For the completists: The four candidates who weren't at today's events were Carroll Campbell III, state Rep. Tim Scott (who was down in the Lowcountry being endorsed by S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell), Stovall Witte and Horry County's own Katherine Jenerette.