Voters will choose between U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Fran Person and Rudy Barnes Jr. for the winner of South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District seat.
The district covers Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Newberry, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York counties.
Mulvaney, who won the seat in 2010 by defeating longtime Democrat John Spratt, successfully won re-election bids in 2012 and 2014.
Person is running his first political campaign: He served for eight years as an aide to Vice President Joe Biden.
Barnes served for eight years as a city councilman in Columbia three decades ago.
Mick Mulvaney, incumbent
Affiliation: Republican Party
Campaign website: mulvaneyforcongress.com
Family: Wife, Pam; 16-year-old triplets
Hometown: Indian Land
Political experience: SC House '06-'08; SC Senate '08-'10; U.S. House '11-present
Education: Georgetown University; University of North Carolina Law School; Harvard Business School
Affiliation: Democratic Party
Campaign website: personforcongress.com
Family: Wife, Krystal, and two daughters
Hometown: Tega Cay; from Havertown, Pa.
Political experience: Aide to Vice President Joe Biden for eight years; has never run for public office
Education: University of South Carolina, bachelor's in political science
Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Affiliation: American Party
Campaign website: rudybarnesforcongress.com
Family: Wife, Jeanette, three grown children
Hometown: Little Mountain, from Columbia
Occupation: Has practiced law for 50 years, retired United Methodist pastor, retired Army officer
Political experience: City Councilman in Columbia from 1978-1986
Education: Earned bachelor's degree in political science at Citadel in 1964; earned law degree from University of South Carolina in 1967; earned master’s degree in public administration from University of South Carolina in 1979
Voters have shown frustration with what they deem as the "establishment government." How would you work to address that perception?
Mick Mulvaney: “I am as frustrated with the “establishment” as are the people I represent. It is one of the reasons that I helped form the Freedom Caucus, and helped push for the removal of John Boehner as speaker.
While some people may claim that those sorts of things are “obstructionist,” in reality they are simply fighting against leadership — in both parties — that has failed to provide real solutions to the nation’s problems. If enough members of Congress were willing to stand up to the establishment wings of both parties, things might actually change in Washington.”
Fran Person: “It’s all about building relationships, it’s about trust. The way people work up there, it’s about trust.
One lesson that Vice President Biden taught me is that it’s always appropriate to question someone’s judgment, but not their motives. If you question their motives, and you don’t agree with me, you could believe that I’m not patriotic, that I’m a bad person, and then we find it hard to sit down and get things done.
To get to a compromise, you figure out what you can work on together. That frustration that you brought up, it’s what drove me to run. It’s the same thing that I see when I go around the district.
Whether I’m talking to a Democrat or a Republican, there are a whole lot of hard-working families who are trying to make it and are falling behind. Every time they look to leaders in elected office, all people see is claiming political points. It used to be a basic bargain that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead, but there are a lot of people who feel that bargain’s broken, and that the political system isn’t working for them.”
Rudy Barnes: “The theme of my campaign reflects that, because it’s ‘The politics of reconciliation.’ I’ve been very troubled with the polarization and antagonization and hatred of people that aligns on two-party lines. I don’t blame that on Mick or Fran. I’m not running against them.
I’m running to let voters know they have a third choice. I want to let them know we can make a difference and break the gridlock as a third party. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’ll take some time, but we’ve got to get started. With this two-party system, it’s produced... the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history. We feel like third parties could change all that, and create a situation where we’d likely not have a gridlock.”
What do you see as the most important areas that government spending should be focused toward?
Mick Mulvaney: “The Constitution is pretty clear: national defense is the first priority of the federal government. That is one reason I opposed the so-called sequester, which was an agreement between John Boehner, Harry Reid, and President Obama to raise the debt ceiling and either 1) cut defense spending or 2) raise taxes. While that is a win-win for Democrats, I thought it was a bad bargain for the country.
Beyond defense, the federal government should prioritize doing a limited number of things well. That means border security and immigration, interstate transportation, ports and other infrastructure, etc.”
Fran Person: “We need to grow our economy and expand our workforce. I think community colleges and technical schools give the best bang for the buck, because they attract jobs to come here and incentivize small businesses. Our workforce should have the skills needed to compete for those jobs.
We need to stop the sequester cut that has been very damaging to our military, especially on Shaw Air Force base. The economic impact it would have on the entire surrounding community would be devastating.
We need to grow our local economy that will help to expand the middle class and put hard-working people in a place where they can compete again. It’s about making an investment in the future that gives you a very good return, and that return is a strong, thriving economy back for the middle class.”
Rudy Barnes: “We need to look at the monetary policy, the role of the federal reserve. We’ve seen some progress in the economy, but not a whole lot, it’s still sluggish. I would like to see Congress have more of a role in monetary policy between interest rates and quantitative easing, creating new money. It currently holds more than $5 trillion in assests, mostly in U.S. bonds, and the government has a $19 trillion budget deficit. It’s a crazy situation.
I think we need to have defense spending. I’m a retired Army officer, so I was privileged to wear the green beret. I think we need to avoid any more Army deployment in places with Islamic culture. I’d prefer to educate, as the president has done, with more specialists and trainers.
Healthcare is another concern of mine. We’ve made it a right, not a privilege. We have to get a handle on healthcare costs. With the Affordable Care Act, I certainly don’t want to repeal it, but it needs to be modified to provide cost control. Especially with pharmaceutical costs, which have gotten completely out of hand. ... We need to look closely at that.”
What would your top priorities be for the coming two years?
Mick Mulvaney: “I will continue to push for a balanced budget amendment and term limits. A balanced budget amendment would force Washington to do the same thing that your family, your church, your business, your school, and even your state and local governments have to do: prioritize spending.
Your family has to make tough decisions over what to buy — and what not to buy; Washington should be forced to do the same thing. Term limits would remove the prospect of a lifetime in elected office that too often encourages elected officials to take easy votes to keep their jobs instead of making tough decisions to help the country.”
Fran Person: “I have three top priorities, in no particular order. First is getting more women in the workforce, setting equal pay for equal work and 12 weeks paid maternity leave. These are family issues for the modern family.
No. 2 is education and workforce development, incentivizing small businesses and putting the workforce in a position where we can compete.
And we need to help our armed services. I believe we live in an uncertain world, and we need to give them all that we can to help them meet the challenges of tomorrow. The last thing we need to do is balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform.”
Rudy Barnes: “Looking to the office, I’m concerned about the interplay between religion and politics. Don’t confuse me with evangelical Christians lining up to support (Republican presidential nominee Donald) Trump. I don’t support him and I’m not enthusiastic about (Democratic presidential nominee) Hillary Clinton.
I’m very much concerned that religion, its role in politics has really distorted politics. The idea that we need to return America to the halcyon days of the 1950s and 60s, that’s absurd. It wasn’t so good for some folks, especially minority folks. I think everyone who calls themselves Christians need to apply the politics of reconciliation that tries to bring people together, not to build walls and keep people out who aren’t like us. We need to learn to live with diversity if we’re going to be the great nation we’d like to be.”