Democratic Candidates for Governor Debate in Charleston

May 16, 2018, 10:32 am EST | Share:

CHARLESTON, SC (WTAT-TV) — For an hour, the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates went toe-to-toe in a debate that was held Tuesday night at the Stern Center on the College of Charleston campus.

A few of the topics discussed at length were education, gun control and the latest prison riot at Lee Correctional Insitute in Bishopville, SC.

In just 60 minutes, Phil Nobel, Rep. James Smith and Marguerite Willis discussed the future of South Carolina and debated what it would look like if they become the next governor.

The discussion of gun control became tense and lead to the controversial topic of prisons in our state.

Each candidate was asked how they would have handled and addressed that recent riot incident.

“We not only have to stop the inflow of contraband but we must punish the people who are providing the contraband as much as we have punished the prisoners who are receiving it,” said Willis.

“Most of the legislators are white. Most of the people in legislation are black — our culture, in this state, for too long, has been ‘well, they’re black folks, they’re bad people. We don’t really care, we’re not going to spend any money on them. Don’t worry about it, if they kill each other so much the better,’ that’s the old South Carolina,” said Nobel.

“This area in South Carolina we’re going to be able to deliver the staffing that is needed, the mental health resources that are needed in the offices there, and have, and I’ve asked for, the judicial department oversight to make sure that we make the strides that are needed to ensure we have the quality prisons that should be available for the inmates and for the workers who work there,” said Rep. Smith.

Those candidates were also asked about education and that failed nuclear plant in Fairfield County.

On school safety, Phil Nobel said until we have leaders who stand and challenge the NRA, we’ll never have safe schools and safe streets. “We as Democrats have to stand up for our fundamental values ‘we are not going to be the party of the NRA,’ our leadership should not be the party of the NRA, ” he said.

Rep. Smith said no child in South Carolina should go to school in fear. “There are meaningful things we can do and that is what I am focused on — making sure our access to classrooms are safe, make sure we have resources there, set up a hotline for children to call when they see warning signs. We make sure teachers are trained to identify the concerns that would be there in mental health.”

Smith said we are not here to arm our teachers with weapons, but to be armed with higher pay because they deserve it.

Marguerite Willis said she has announced a policy banning automatic weapons, banning bump stocks and making sure we raise the age for purchase of certain firearms to 21. “We will never, not ever, arm a teacher as long as I am governor. I will veto every bill until that is taken care of.”

She also believes there are practical things we can do quickly like adding additional metal detectors, school resource officers and also invite the local police agencies to come by and be a presence in schools.

You can watch the entire debate here: