COLUMBIA -- Candidates for the 6th Congressional District sparred Monday over tax policy, the wisdom of recent taxpayer rescue of some of the nation's largest financial institutions and how to create jobs in a high unemployment district that takes in some of South Carolina's poorest counties.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia, an eight-term incumbent, faced off with his Republican opponent, Mullins political newcomer Nancy Harrelson, in a debate sponsored by ETV and The State newspaper.
Much of the debate was focused on job creation, which both candidates conceded was the most important issue in a district that has several counties with double-digit unemployment.
Clyburn reminded voters of his record of bringing new infrastructure to the district that he says is paying off in new jobs.
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The Lake Marion Regional Water Agency's water treatment plant could lead to 10,000 new jobs and potentially $800 million in new investment for the district, he said. The June announcement that Monster.com is bringing 750 jobs to Florence is an example of the possibilities, Clyburn argued.
"We would have never gotten that if it weren't for the water," Clyburn said. "You are not going to create jobs without infrastructure."
Harrelson, 54, said she also supports investing in infrastructure in the district. But Harrelson said she's opposed to earmarks -- federal spending for pet projects lawmakers can anonymously request that is often used to fund water, sewer and road projects.
Harrelson said the key to creating jobs is to adopt what is known as the fair tax. That plan would eliminate most federal taxes on businesses and individuals and would add up to 23 cents on the dollar for everything consumers and businesses purchase.
"One of the biggest reasons our jobs have left the U.S. is our tax rates," said Harrelson, who runs a construction company with her family.
Harrelson agreed Monday morning to debate Clyburn after declining an invitation to participate.