U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, began a three-day visit to 10 South Carolina counties in Hardeeville on Tuesday, answering questions about education, immigration and improving the state's roads.
Scott told a crowd of about 75 people at Hardeeville City Hall that he would focus on improving education during his time in the Senate. Scott represented parts of Beaufort County in the U.S. House before being appointed last year to fill a vacancy left by the retirement of former Sen. Jim DeMint.
Scott talked about his upbringing in North Charleston as a reason for his focus on education. Before his political career, Scott attended five elementary schools and nearly flunked out of high school, but he was eventually able to graduate from Charleston Southern University and start a successful insurance business, he said.
"I might be the only senator to fail high school civics," Scott said. "We need all hands on deck to change our kids' educational outcomes, or there is not much hope for us in the future."
He didn't mention any specific educational programs he supported.
Scott fielded questions from the crowd on a recent bill to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants. He voted against the bill, which passed the Senate and is being considered in the House. He said it didn't do enough to ensure border security.
"The bill should address our porous border and the need to secure it," he said.
Sun City Hilton Head resident Tom Faber said he liked Scott's stance on immigration.
"He definitely has done his homework, and he knows what he is talking about," Faber said. "I think he has a good read on politics in D.C."
Scott said an interest rate increase on student loans would mean only about a $6 monthly hike in loan repayments per student, a raise that would help alleviate the impact of the trillions of dollars in student debt owed to the federal government.
He also said he and other senators lost their fight to increase the amount of money from the $36 billion gas tax that would go toward roads and bridges, to improve the country's aging infrastructure.
After a few short comments from several Jasper County politicians, Scott was quickly off to his next stop, Walterboro City Hall.
Some observers noted the length of time since the area was visited by a politician of Scott's stature.
Ridgeland Mayor Joey Malphrus joked that Scott's visit to Hardeeville was the first by a U.S. senator since "Strom Thurmond started in the Senate."
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.