Democrats Debate In Congressional Race

From health care to gender issues and a number of topics in between, the four men seeking the Democratic nomination for the 7th Congressional District seat now held by Republican Tom Rice answered prepared questions Monday at the Waccamaw Neck library in a forum sponsored by the Georgetown County Democratic Party.

Bruce Fischer, Bill Hopkins, Mal Hyman and Robert Williams for the most part disagreed with each other only in degree. They did, however, disagree with the Republicans who control all three branches of government.

“You know,” said Hopkins, a Pawleys Island attorney, “people should never be afraid of the government. The government should be afraid of the people, and unfortunately, that’s not where we are today.”

For Hyman, a professor at Coker College who has worked with the United Nations in election monitoring and human rights work, the impetus to enter this year’s race was a belief that “silence is betrayal.”

“The country has lost its moral compass,” Hyman said, adding that the country faces transnational corporations that “pledge allegiance to the best investment opportunity, not to the United States of America.”

Williams, a member of the General Assembly and a military veteran, stressed his South Carolina roots. He’s a native and current resident of Darlington County, where he raised his three sons. He said his motivation to seek higher office is to expand on his record of public service, which includes working with adult day care and helping fathers reconnect with their children.

Also a military veteran, Fischer said he “wants to bring reason and sanity back to our government.”

He said the election of 2016 upset him “to the nth degree, and I had to do something.”

Health care

Williams called on the government in South Carolina and beyond to expand health care for everyone.

“As of right now, we’re paying for services we’re not receiving,” he said. “We need to expand Medicare/Medicaid to all. Other states are enjoying the things we are paying for.”

Fischer said that health care is a right and the country needs to start treating it that way.

“The wave of the future is going to be nationally approved Medicare for all,” he said. “Every living person in this country will have access to health care.”

He conceded that the Medicare tax may be higher in the future, but when compared to rising insurance premiums, the cost will actually be less.

Hopkins called health care “the most blatant gamesmanship in Congress.”

“Rather than righting the things in Obamacare that need to be fixed, Congress threw the baby out with the bathwater with no plan in place to improve it,” Hopkins said.

He explained that several years ago, he was lead attorney in a case brought by the state of South Carolina against drug companies that were overcharging South Carolina Medicaid. That resulted in more than $75 million to $80 million being put back into the coffers of state government.

While Hopkins said he had not yet made up his mind whether he favored a single-payer system, he was willing to listen to any plan that included access to health care for everyone, affordable drug prices and allowing people to see the medical provider of their choice.

Hyman has long called health care a human right and expanded that when he explained that health care for everyone was good for business.

“Our businesses are at a competitive disadvantage when they compete against businesses in Europe and Canada, because we’re paying for health care costs,” Hyman said in calling for universal health care.

Gun violence

All four men reiterated their support for the Second Amendment but drew the line at assault weapons.

“Where we are in America, common sense has left the room,” Hopkins said. “If you look at polls, they show that 80 percent of Americans want the most common sense things: better background checks, waiting periods, close the gun-show loopholes and raise the purchase age, eliminate bumpstocks.”

Calling the gun culture so competitive, “it boggles the mind,” Fischer said that Americans can do some common sense things.

“The people who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were living in a world of musketry,” Fischer said. “They didn’t have automatic weapons, semiautomatic weapons, bumpstocks. They didn’t even have cartridges, so getting two rounds off was pretty good,” he said.

“More people have died of gun violence in the United States in the last 40 years than have died in all the wars we’ve fought,” Hyman said, adding that the National Rifle Association is a formidable foe.

Hyman called on the government to establish a blue ribbon commission to look at violence in America, of which gun violence is a subset.

During his combat tour in Iraq, Williams said he handled all types of weapons. “Pretty much any gun you can name, I probably had it in my hands during my military tour,” he said.

“I wasn’t there to aim at regular people,” he said. “I was there because my country called me to defend the freedom we enjoy.”

He said he supports raising the age limit to purchase a gun to 21 and to restrict bumpstocks.

Checks on the power of the president

Williams said that unless the Democratic Party comes together, the power of the president has no limits. “We must come together and make sure all our folks have that power,” he said.

“There are things we can do,” Hopkins said, “and number one is elect more Democrats. One thing we can do is revamp these executive orders, but the best thing we can do is elect more Democrats.”

Fischer said that by law and institutional history, there already are checks and balances in place.

He called on Congress to revamp the War Powers Act. “The Constitution explicitly states that the right to declare war is in the realm of the Congress, not the president,” Fischer said.

Hyman said, “The people have to organize in different ways in order to be part of the checks and balances, both in the political system and outside the political system.” He added that change comes from the bottom up, not the top down.

Appealing to Republicans

Calling himself a “conservative Democrat,” Hopkins said, “if you’re not a conservative Democrat you have zero chance of being elected.”

“You have to look at where we are,” Hopkins continued. “No white person [Democrat] has been elected from the Deep South since 2008 from Georgia. But we need to work across the aisle.” (In December 2017, Democrat Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)

“If Donald Trump is serious about keeping jobs in the PeeDee and Grand Strand, I’ll have my picture taken with him,” Hopkins said.

“We can’t continue to remain polarized as we are now,” Fischer said. “I can talk to people, I can listen to people, hear what they’re saying beyond the sound bites, beyond the rhetoric. We can negotiate with people. We can compromise. We can get things done again.”

Hyman said he thought the public was clamoring for good common sense solutions to our problems.

“If you frame it so that what’s good for businesses is good for individuals, it resonates,” he said, citing how the Canadian system of health care lowers the cost of doing business and lowers the national debt.

Williams said that any good politician is always willing to listen. “You’re not always going to agree,” he said. “But you must be willing to listen. To move this country forward, you have to reach across the aisle.”

Women’s right to choose

Fischer called the debate over abortion a life or death issue. “The reason we got Roe v. Wade is because women were dying. So I definitely support a woman’s right to choose.”

“Men should not tell women what to do with their bodies,” said Williams. “I wouldn’t want that to happen to my wife, to my mother, telling them how and what they should do.”

“The government has no business being involved in a woman’s or any other person’s personal medical decision,” said Hopkins.

Voting Rights Act

For the last four to eight years, Williams said, voting rights have been chipped away. “Voting is a right for any citizen under the law. They don’t want you to enjoy that right,” he said, referring to the Republican Party.

“I’ll be very clear,” said Hopkins. “Anything that stands between you walking into a booth to cast your vote is unconstitutional as a matter of law. But the Republicans are smart. Aside from gerrymandering, the best way to keep control and power is to keep Democrats from voting.”

Saying that the Supreme Court was clear when it “gutted” the Voting Rights Act, Fischer said that the court said, “here you go Congress, fix it. And they have done nothing. It will be up to us, to one of us here, to rewrite that so it’s constitutional.”

Hyman said that American have fought and died to get the right to vote.

“I agree with Bill on this,” Hyman said. “This was done as a partisan issue to keep largely poor and AfricanAmerican people from voting in as great a number. And it’s done deliberately. There was no voter fraud in this state.”

Other issues

While all four candidates expressed support for transgender rights, Williams said he firmly believed that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

All four men said the issue of banning plastic bags should be left to municipal control, citing the importance of protecting the environment.

All four men stated their opposition to ocean seismic activities, citing the threat to tourism, economy and the environment.

This article provided by NewsEdge.