MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention hosted gubernatorial candidates who are vying for votes.
The theme of the sixth annual convention was President Donald Trump's "Contract with the American Voter." The three-day event was held at the Crown Reef Resort Conference Center.
Gubernatorial candidates Catherine Templeton, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and Yancy McGil participated in the forum. Gov. Henry McMaster did not attend.
A series of seven questions were submitted from different geographical areas in the state and each candidate had 15 minutes to answer as many as they could. When one candidate was on the stage the others were in seclusion so they couldn't hear the questions or answers.
"There were to be no gotcha questions. I am not interested in personalities. What I'm interested in is policy, so my guidelines are we wanted serious questions that are the fears and hopes and dreams of South Carolina people to ask of their candidates so they can make an informed intelligent choice as to who their next governor will be," Joe Dugan, president of the S.C. Tea Party Coalition, said.
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis was a featured speaker Monday morning. He talked about fiscal responsibility, which he believes the state needs more of.
As the state's private banker, Loftis said his goal is to make sure the people's interests are served and not the special interest. He also listened in to the gubernatorial forum.
"I know them all, known them for years, so it's hard to be in the middle, but we have some very talented people running for governor and I think it's exciting," Loftis said. "Most people aren't paying attention to the election yet, but come about March or April, everyone will gear in and the TV ads will be on, so I think you'll see a lot of activity."
Current S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson was another featured speaker Monday afternoon. He is running for re-election and during his speech he talked about some local issues, like the human trafficking epidemic. He added that Horry County is one of the top five counties in South Carolina where it exists, along with the opioid epidemic.
Wilson said he hasn't missed one Tea Party convention the past six years.
"It basically brings people together from around this community who are very focused and concerned about the issues going on both locally, statewide and nationally," he said. "I think it's imperative. At the end of the day elected officials basically work for the people of this state and right now I am in a job interview. I am asking people to allow me to continue being their attorney general, so I'm here asking them to hire me for another four years and find out what I need to do to serve them in the meantime.".
Templeton and Bryant said most of the questions they heard on Monday were ones they've been hearing recently all over South Carolina, and were pleased the forum gave them the chance to answer some.
"This is the beginning of the election season and it's important for everyone to realize they do have a choice on who they send," Templeton said.
She believes now is the time for an outsider to go to Columbia, and wants people to know why she's running for governor.
"It's simple and the answer is simple. I think you'll hear it from everyone except the current placeholder. Gov. Haley used to say it's a great day in South Carolina," Templeton said.
Her top goals are to grow jobs, cut spending and end corruption.
For Bryant, the basis of his campaign is integrity and he said ethics reform is on the top of his list.
"We've had an ongoing corruption probe for five years. FBI has been in South Carolina for a year, there are indictments and evictions and removals from office, and we just don't know what's next," Bryant said.
One of the big challenges he sees for the state is improving its infrastructure.
"The highest tax increase in South Carolina is not going to fix our roads until we reform the DOT (Department of Transportation), so that's a big part of our message," Bryant said.
McGill also participated in the forum. He told the crowd he wants to bring in more jobs and protect the corporate members in South Carolina.
The election for South Carolina's next governor is Nov. 6.