by William Moultrie
Orangeburg – It was an unusual format for a debate and it had unexpected results. You wouldn’t expect to have a clear victor in a two-party, ten-way debate, but the near unanimous verdict is that state Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston) was the hands-down winner tonight.
“I was amazed at his grasp of the issues,” said U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC3), one of the participants. “I know he’s been in politics since 1979 — that’s 40 years of public service — but still, when he suggested creating the largest film/movie industry in the country in response to Global Warming, I was blown away. I’m just glad I didn’t have to follow him.”
“Gresham was lucky,” said state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), “I had to follow Robert on every question and he was killing me. Hell, after his answer on Global Warming I was so flustered I even admitted there was a fossil record that would make the Earth much older than the bible says it is.”
The politicians were not alone in their praise of Ford. Marcus Webster is an Irrigation Flow Regulation Engineering major at Clemson and was very interested in what the candidates had to say about the issue of water withdrawal.
“Most of the candidates made good points about the suit [SC Attorney General Henry] McMaster brought against North Carolina or the lack of permitting,” said Webster, “but Ford really got to the point and opened my eyes when he said the next governor should work with the General Assembly and that it’s not ‘Rocket Science.’ That is so true. It’s not rocket science — that’s actually the name of one of our textbooks: Turning on the Water — It’s not Rocket Science.”
Ford’s fellow Democratic candidates seemed especially concerned about the candidate’s resurgence.
“I have to admit, I underestimated him,” said state Sen. Vince Sheheen (D-Kershaw). “I’ve known Robert for years and frankly, I wasn’t too worried, but wow, he really showed up tonight. I’m just glad the format didn’t allow him to get into any of his other issues or he might have cleared the field for the primary.”
“It was one thing when [Ford] brought up the movie studio plan to combat Climate Change,” said Democratic candidate and former lobbyist Dwight Drake. “That’s a natural. But when he applied the same solution to protecting the environment while growing the economy… wow. That’s all I can say… wow. I’m going to have to get my advisers together over the next few days and decide if it’s really worth fighting for this primary.”
When the issue of the embattled South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) was brought up, most of the candidates either wanted to restructure the department or just streamline the process, with State Rep. Niki Haley (R-Lexington) going so far as to suggest that DHEC should be run like the DMV. Ford parted from his fellow candidates of both parties in vigorously defending the agency.
“Please don’t mess with DHEC,” Ford implored. “That agency does a wonderful job. I had five major explosions in my district and I was glad DHEC did it the right way.”
The evening’s questions all centered around the environment, and in the end, the state’s environmental leaders were just as impressed with Ford as everyone else. Adam Beachman of the South Carolina Coastal But Not Only Coastal Conservation Association (SCCBNOCCA) was present at the debate and offered his opinion of Ford’s performance.
“I didn’t expect to like him,” said Beachman, “but he really won me over with his stance on offshore drilling. We’ve long opposed even discussing that issue, but after hearing Ford talk about how Katrina swept through the thousands of drilling platforms off the coast of Louisiana and slammed into their coast without losing a single pelican, it suddenly hit me — it’s all about the pelicans. Sure there were over 7 million gallons of oil spilled on and around their coast, but that’s not what’s on their flag, the pelican is. If we can protect our palmetto tree like Louisiana protected their pelican, we’re all going to be alright.”
Most political observers expect the opposing candidates to attempt to exclude Ford from subsequent debates.