Lowe, Long differ on on state’s issues
FLORENCE, S.C. – In a bid to keep his House District 60 seat, Republican Phillip Lowe is running against Democrat Devon Long in the Nov. 6 general election.
Lowe said he was born in Georgia but has lived in Florence since he was 2 years old. Lowe is a physical therapist in Florence. He is the owner of three physical therapy clinics in the state. He also is involved in the development of real estate. Two of the developments he has worked on are The Grove and Forest at Lake Shores.
Long has been a Pee Dee resident since January 2010. He serves as a pastor at the Prayer Tabernacle Holiness Church in East Florence. Long also serves a substitute teacher and is working toward obtaining his certification to become a full-time teacher. He is married and the father of five children. He describes himself as a “very major” community activist who believes in bridging the gap between resources and those who need the resources.
The South Carolina General Assembly is divided into two bodies: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is constitutionally mandated to have 124 representatives from election districts of roughly equal population. One of the 124 districts, House District 60, includes western Florence and southeastern Darlington counties.
Lowe was first elected to the seat in 2006. He has served since 2007.
Legislators are paid $10,400 in South Carolina; however, they also receive money per month for in-district expenses that raises that amount to around $30,000.
Lowe said the state of South Carolina is competing in the Southeast. He said lots of people are moving to the Southeast in a region from Alabama through North Carolina. He said incentives are sometimes necessary to attract companies to the state. The state’s Department of Commerce, he said, is critical to offering the incentives.
Infrastructure and quality of life are also critical, Lowe added. Quality of life, he said, includes everything from the quality of the roads, to schools, to arts and other recreational activities. The policies of the legislature can have an effect as well. Lowe said the state is in the process of improving the quality of its roads. He said there is a lot of road improvement happening, including several projects in the city of Florence.
Some of the additional money that’s being raised by a recent gas tax increase is beginning to affect local streets, Lowe said.
Tax rates and regulations are also important.
“This state is also known for not having a lot of unions,” Lowe said. “I think that’s critical to continue the economic development.”
Long said the region is seeing a very nice progression of new businesses coming. His concerns center on the places of minorities in the development and redevelopment of the Florence area.
“I do believe that we all have a place to benefit from those things, but I would like to see and to be involved in creating a more diverse front,” Long said. “In other words, we’re seeing a lot of high-end restaurants and things like that. I want to see more of that kind of thing for everyone. Not just those who can afford the things that have been built downtown.”
Long also said he would like to see more home ownership in the community. He said he sees a gap between the resources needed to buy newly constructed homes and those who would like to purchase the new homes. He said he wants to put more money into the middle class. One area he wants to look at is increasing the minimum wage.
Because of the low level of income from minimum wage jobs, Long said, programs such as food stamps and Medicare, which are supposed to be transitional in nature, are becoming permanent parts of many families.
Lowe said the biggest problem in education is a lack of parenting. He said he sees people discussing the salaries of teachers, but most teachers leave because of the lack of discipline of their student and the red tape in the classroom.
“If I were changing a policy directly in school, it would be to require people who aren’t able to read by the time they leave the third grade to stay back a year and stay in the remedial reading classes for a year to try to catch them up,” Lowe said.
Once students leave the third grade, Lowe said, they are expected to read, causing students who can’t read to get frustrated and give up on school, and that negatively affects their futures. He also discussed the possibility of really concentrating on reading in the earlier grades.
Long said educators are the most underpaid workers anywhere. He said he believes that because of the lack of appropriate pay, the quality of education is suffering. Long said the issue of paying educators a larger salary is not discussed as frequently in Columbia as it should be. One of the things Long said made him run for office is a bill authored by Lowe that would arm teachers. Long said he does not believe such a plan is practical and could create more dangerous situations in schools. He called for the employment of more school resource officers.
“I’m not big on raising taxes, but if they’re going to raise them anyhow, let’s find some way to fund giving our teachers raises, one; two, let’s find ways to fund putting more resources in the school to help empower our children,” Long said.
Lowe said he does not think free health care is a right. He said free health care would flood the market, and that would cause shortages, which would cause the rationing of health care. He called insurance unaffordable.
Long said it is big step to take to get to health care for all as was attempted under the administration of President Barack Obama. He said people should not have to choose between paying bills and seeking medical treatment. Long said he was all for subsidies for those who could afford health insurance. He said people are dying because they cannot afford their treatments or medications. Long also called for the expansion of Medicaid for adults who are below a certain income level. He stressed that he is not for the Medicaid-for-all programs or the expansion of those programs for able-bodied adults.
He also called for parameters on programs such as food stamps to assure that the people receiving the aid are taking the steps to make sure they only need those programs temporarily.
Lowe said he does not see legalization of marijuana. He added that the federal government needs to declassify marijuana for it to be fully used for medical purposes. He said he is sure there are medical benefits to the use of medical marijuana.
Long said he is pro-medical marijuana in severe cases but is anti-legalization.
“One thing that people don’t think about in the state legislature is that we elect judges,” Lowe said. “Judges are making a lot of decisions now that are basically becoming law. It’s important to have judges on there that stick to the Constitution or the constitutionality of issues and not try to write law from the bench. I think we need to do a better job of screening and electing judges and let the legislature make law.”
Long spoke of the need to provide more resources in place to prevent domestic violence. He also spoke of the need to fix the criminal justice system. He said it’s not fair that someone living on the outside of prisons must struggle and worry about putting food on the table every day while prisoners on death row receive three meals per day for 20 or 30 years while they await their ultimate punishment.