By Greg Wilson
The jack-o'-lanterns are on the front porches. Plastic skeletons are hanging from doors and fence posts. It can only mean one thing - election day is getting closer.
And nothing says elections like a good debate. That's why there were a variety of reasons to be disappointed in Tuesday night's South Carolina gubernatorial debate. The problem was not as much with the candidates, but with the over-wrought format and C-Span's truncated coverage snafus.
The debate, scheduled for a 9 p.m. start, was delayed 10 minutes while C-Span aired expanded coverage following the Arkansas Senatorial debate, including television commercials from each of the candidates. When the poorly lighted, poorly staged event actually began, things did not get much better.
Some of the issues were a result of the fact the debate was sponsored by The Charleston Post and Courier, WCIV-TV in Charleston, WACH-TV in Columbia, WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach and WLOS-TV/WMYA-TV, created some of the problems.
Too many representatives of sponsors, each with questions for the candidates, made for an awkward and unsatisfying debate both for the candidates and viewers.
Each candidate was given 60 seconds to answer a question, and offered 30 seconds for rebuttal. Few got the opportunity to use their rebuttal time during the 40-minute debate.
The candidates and voters of South Carolina deserved better.
The five candidates handled the poor format and time restraints as well as can be expected.
Here is are the essential messages and performance rankings from each candidate, based on a rating scale of 1-5:
1. Independent Tom Ervin - 4
Ervin stayed with his talking points of improve the economy, improve wages for citizens and repairing the state's crumbling and aging road system.
2. Democrat Vincent Sheheen - 3.5
Sheheen hammered away at citizens of South Carolina paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, due directly to the fact that Haley spearheaded the rejection of the federally funded expansion of the program in our own state, a move which is costing South Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars, which comes out of the pockets or working citizens in the state.
3. Rebulican Nikki Haley - 3
Haley maintained, in very broad terms, the state had added thousands of jobs during her first term and accused Sheheen of wanting to expand Obamacare by suggesting Medicaid expansion was good for South Carolina. Haley seemed a bit detatched and distracted during the debate, and missed opportunities to challenge some of the criticisms leveled at her.
4. Libertarian Steve French - 2
French was consistent in his Libertarian views promoting less taxation and essentially no restraints on personal choices by citizens. But his comments on jobs made Reeves ramblings seem almost sane. Criticizing Haley on incentives for businesees, French said: "I look at jobs like I look at sex. You shouldn't brag about it if you have to pay for it."
5. Green/United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves - 1
It is hard to take any candidate seriously who finds a way to imply that all of the state's problems would be solved by legalizing hemp and marijuana. His implications that supporting full legalization of the drug was a spiritual matter just made him seem plain weird. I confess I don't like the fact this guy can run on the ballot twice, which garnered him 20,000 votes in 2010.
A second gubernatorial debate scheduled for Oct. 21 at Furman University in Greenville will focus on education and health care.