Candidates spar at Beaufort Chamber forum

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Candidates spar at Beaufort Chamber forum

Published Thursday, November 1, 2012   |  619 Words  |  

With only days until the election, candidates for Beaufort City Council, Beaufort County Board of Education and the 1st District House of Representatives seat met Thursday in a forum at the Technical College of the Lowcountry's Beaufort campus.

The event, sponsored by the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, drew more than100, most of whom arrived in time for the debate between Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Scott and Democratic challenger Bobbie Rose.


Incumbents Mike McFee and George O'Kelley Jr. and former CIA agent Pete Palmer discussed the proposed form-based code, parking issues, and other priorities. The three men are vying for two at-large council seats.

McFee, seeking a second term, touted his experience working with businesses and community groups. He described the Commerce Park purchase an important step toward diversifying the city's economy and said adopting a form-based code would allow for predictable development outcomes. He opposes removing downtown parking meters but wants to work with merchants and community groups to develop a solution.

O'Kelley replaced Gary Fordham, who died in office last year. O'Kelley has served several stints on council and listed curbside trash pickup, the restaurant smoking ban, the ban on texting while driving and the anti-revving ordinances as policy successes.

For now, he said the form-based code is only being studied. He supports removing parking meters from downtown.

Palmer decried city spending on planning consultants and the $1.8 million Commerce Park purchase. He wants parking meters removed from downtown and is wary of a form-based code.


Seven candidates running for three northern Beaufort County school board seats discussed qualities they'll demand in the next superintendent and ways to improve student performance, among other topics.

In District 3, Incumbent Michael Rivers said board members should put children first and hold the superintendent accountable. Fellow incumbent and opponent Fred Washington Jr. said he has made tough decisions during his tenure, and wants the next superintendent to be "reform oriented, a leader and a manager."

Bernie Schein wants the next superintendent to have teaching experience and expects the school chief to teach several hours a week. He says residents are not getting accurate information on student performance.

District 4 candidate James Beckert said the board must rebuild community trust and improve transparency and fiscal accountability. His opponent, Brian Herrmann, belives his community planning experience allows him to see the big picture.

In District 5, Ronald Speaks said the district must improve science, math and technology offerings. He cited his experience as a math teacher and wants to reduce the achievement gap.

Geri Kinton said she would bring new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and challenges to status quo. She said the next superintendent should have "proven integrity" and a history of working "collaboratively" with charter and magnet schools.


Scott and Rose, running in the redrawn district, disagreed often on issues ranging from stimulus spending to President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul to immigration reform.

Rose supports "Obamacare." She opposes more tax cuts for the wealthy and said the stimulus saved jobs. She supports immigration reform allowing undocumented workers to stay and said lack of demand is a key reason for the slow pace of hiring.

Scott wants Obamacare repealed and opposes immigration reforms that allows "amnesty." Scott opposes the stimulus and believes "job growth starts in the private sector."

The debate was at times overshadowed by audience members, who booed, clapped and heckled both candidates.