COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Abortion and economic policies were a major focus of Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate in South Carolina.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham shared the stage for the only time before the Nov. 8 General Election in the debate hosted by SCETV and the Post and Courier newspaper.
They talked about their plans for the state if elected governor for the next four years.
Right off the bat, the candidates were asked about their views on abortion. Cunningham called McMaster’s support of an abortion ban “the most egregious form of government overreach.”
“If politicians are able to come into your doctor’s offices, what can they not do,” he said.
McMaster said the General Assembly has not passed an abortion ban without exceptions and that no such bill will make it to his desk. He said he thinks state lawmakers will continue their work on legislation that is “acceptable to most people in this state.”
He called Cunningham’s position on abortion “radical.”
“Mr. Cunningham is for pre-Roe,” he said. “As we know, that allowed abortion up to 24 weeks. That’s six months. Six months that Roe allowed abortions for any reason or no reason at all.”
With record inflation and a possible recession looming, the candidates were asked what they would do to help South Carolinians.
McMaster said he would continue to do what he’s been doing.
“This year we had a record in capital investment,” he said. “We have also cut taxes. We have more people working right now than ever before.”
Cunningham said suspending the state gas tax could help provide some relief. He also said he would work to eliminate the state income tax.
“We can be that economic lighthouse for businesses that want to grow or expand into South Carolina, but we have to have new ideas,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said to would urge lawmakers to legalize sports betting and marijuana to create new revenue streams to help make up for the elimination of the state income tax.
McMaster said he does not support the legalization of sports betting or recreational marijuana.
“Medical marijuana, that’s something else,” he said.
Both candidates said the state’s criminal justice system is in need of reforms and that teacher pay needs to be increased. They also said they would accept the outcome of November’s election.
A little more than mid-way through the debate, Cunningham and McMaster were asked about their stances on same-sex marriage. The question was specifically about the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and whether the candidates would uphold that law if the U.S. Supreme Court, like with abortion, sent that decision back to the states.
“Gay marriage … under our state law is not allowed,” McMaster said. “I would follow the state law whatever the state law is.”
Cunningham said: “It’s 2022 and Governor McMaster wants to ban same-sex marriage … I don’t care who you are or who you love, I don’t think it’s [the] government’s role to be getting in the middle of that.”
In a rebuttal, McMaster said: “I don’t care who you love or you don’t love, or who you want to live with … that’s your business. I think marriage is a special institution and that designation ought to be reserved for a man and a woman.”
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting locations are open in South Carolina through Nov. 5.
As of Tuesday, more than 87,000 South Carolinians had voted early, according to state election officials.