Popular Vote: Mark Sanford answers questions from the Lowcountry


Mark SanfordQuestion. You visit Beaufort County often and always have an active schedule of public meetings while you’re here. What issues are frequently brought up by your constituents at the grocery stores, libraries, neighborhood community centers and other locations where you meet with them?

Answer. Since (the shooting in) Parkland, it’s overwhelmingly been guns. Typically, it’s the things that impact people’s lives. This obviously means roads and infrastructure in Beaufort County, but it also means government taxes and spending, health care and even things like immigration or what comes next in the wake of the storms we’ve had of late.


Q. In your district, what are the biggest challenges to improving education, and what do you think needs to happen to make students better prepared to compete in the workforce of the future?

A. Three things jump out at me. First is recognizing the degree to which education begins in the home. At times, we ask of our teachers a whole lot in filling in blanks here, yet education must begin as something that’s valued at home and with the student. More money in the actual classroom is another important part of the puzzle. And finally, recognition that we need to have an educational system that fits with the diversity of students that are out there. This means more tech or vocational options for young people that are so oriented. We shouldn’t presuppose that every young person wants to go to college, and one look at your plumbing bill reminds all of us that taking a different path that might fit with who you are is by no means a route to being a second-class citizen.

Q. You famously called the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 “government growth on steroids.” How would you adapt this budget agreement, if you could?

A. One, scale it back. It’s five times the increase of the spending budget deals of 2013 and 2015. Two, pay for what you do spend. That’s not done in this deal and will have real implications down the line in the way that debt and deficits accumulate. Finally, kill the blank check that this deal offers. Historically, we have raised the debt ceiling to an amount. This one simply suspends the debt ceiling to a future date and, in so doing, invites much more spending.


Q. What would you like to see happen in immigration reform? 

A. A balanced approach. No one will get all of what they want in the immigration debate, but it’s important to learn from past debates on this front. Back in 1986, amnesty was offered to 3 million illegal workers with the promise that enforcement and border security would come later. It didn’t, and as a consequence, many of the people that I represent say that the concept of border security must be coupled with whatever might come next in immigration. 

Q. Voters know you as both an environmentalist and a states’ rights advocate. How do these points of view interact with President Donald Trump’s proposal to open South Carolina’s coastal waters to seismic testing and offshore drilling?

A. Not so well. Republicans have historically said that they believe in local voice, and that not all decisions need to be made in Washington. So let’s leave aside for a moment possible environmental or tourism impacts of what might come with offshore activity, and instead focus on the simple premise of representative government — and that is that local people ought to have a voice on local issues.

What happens offshore impacts onshore. People locally have told me they want to have a hand in the way their communities develop, and I think that’s reasonable. Over 140 municipalities along the East Coast have formally opposed oil and gas development off the Atlantic coast, and so, regardless of one’s view of offshore, I can’t do my job and not voice the concerns that I’ve heard both formally and informally here at home.

Next month, Hilton Head Island Mayor David Bennett will answer reader’s questions. Please submit questions to editor@hiltonheadmonthly.com.