COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The top candidates for governor, incumbent Republican Henry McMaster and Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham, shared their stances on abortion, economic policy and other issues on the debate stage Wednesday night.
Wednesday’s debate was hosted by SCETV along with the Post and Courier.
McMaster and Cunningham talked about their plans for South Carolina if they were 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.”
He went on to say, “If politicians are able to come into your doctor’s offices, what can they not do?”
McMaster said the General Assembly has not passed an abortion ban without exceptions and no such bill will make it to his desk. He believes state lawmakers will continue their work on possible legislation that is ‘acceptable to most people in this state’.
He called Cunningham’s position on abortion “radical.” He said, “Mr. Cunningham is for pre-Roe. 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 about 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. We have also cut taxes. We have more people working right now than ever before,” McMaster said.
Cunningham said a suspension of the state gas tax could help provide some relief. He 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 make up for the elimination of the state income tax, he would urge lawmakers to create new streams of revenue by legalizing sports betting and marijuana.
McMaster said he does not support the legalization of sports betting or recreational marijuana.
“Medical marijuana, that’s something else,” he said.
Both men said there need to be reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, increases to teacher pay and 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 US Supreme Court, like with abortion, sent that decision back to the states.
McMaster said, “Gay marriage…under our state law is not allowed. 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 its 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 November 8th. Early voting locations are open in South Carolina through November 5th.
More than 87,000 South Carolinians have cast early votes, as of Tuesday, according to state election officials.