Name: John Ashley Cooper
Political party: Democrat
Years living in area: 35 years
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Family: My wife, Hartley, and I have two children together -- a daughter, Caroline (7), and a son, John (3)
Education: Graduate of Clemson University, 1994; graduate of University of South Carolina School of Law, 1997
Current occupation: Attorney, Lawyer-Nelson Mullins law firm
Employment, military and volunteer history: Board member of Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital; board member, S.C. Arts Foundation; former adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina School of Government and International Studies
Public elected offices: None
Any unsuccessful political campaigns: None
Other political and government experience: Counsel to U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (1999-2003)
Endorsements received: League of Conservation Voters (S.C. chapter); S.C. Education Association
S.C. Ethics Commission statement of economic interests: None listed as of March 25
Campaign money raised: $260,733 raised this election cycle as of July 10
1. Why should people vote for you?
As a first-time candidate, I represent something new. Keeping the same politicians in office for too long, and "politics as usual" has prevented South Carolina from progressing. Drawing on my experiences in the private sector, I can bring real-world solutions to our state's problems, realizing answers don't come from inside the Statehouse. As the only candidate to state from day one that I am running to serve a state and not an ideology, I continue to distinguish myself by representing an end to partisan politics. By contrast, my opponent practices traditional politics -- he campaigns against new taxes, despite his support for tax hikes and increased government spending, even voting to raise his own pay.
2. What are the three most important issues you would address if elected and how would you address them?
Job creation. The state must put more emphasis on creating jobs and helping small businesses grow. The news about Boeing is very good, but this kind of announcement should come more than every 20 years. In the meantime, we've got to focus on small businesses. I've been traveling the state talking with business leaders and asking them for their input which our current crop of politicians often fail to do. I'll bring their ideas to Columbia and give them a seat at the table. I'll also work to strengthen our Commerce Department which has been underutilized for some time.
Education. Job creation and education go hand and hand. South Carolina must not give up on public education. We've got to ensure that no matter where a child attends school, they'll have equal opportunities to succeed. I believe that we must get parents more involved in their children's education. I also believe that we should fight against the idea promoted by my opponent that we take money away from our public schools to provide tax breaks to private academies.
Seniors. One of the lieutenant governor's most important responsibilities is to run the Office on Aging. This office is supposed to offer assistance to seniors on many different levels. I believe that there are dedicated people serving in this office, but too much red tape and bureaucracy often limits the office's effectiveness. I'll streamline the office so employees can focus on helping seniors. Our senior population has increased by 128 percent since 1970 and is expected to increase by another 123 percent in the next 20 years. Yet, we only budget and plan on an annual basis. We need to have a twenty year strategic plan so we can serve our seniors effectively and efficiently.
3. What other issues do you see as important?
I believe that it's important that we don't raise taxes, especially in tough economic times. My opponent supported tax and fee increases as a member of Florence County Council. He now supports a risky scheme that would raise taxes on groceries and medicine, even though he says he's for lower taxes. That is politics as usual, and people have had enough of it. I also believe that we must protect our natural resources, limit the growth of government spending and crack down on the influence special interest lobbyists have in Columbia. We must restore credibility and trust.
4. What specific steps will you take to make government more open and accessible to the public?
I support on-the-record voting. Too often legislators hide their votes by using "voice votes" that don't record how they actually voted. I'd require all votes be on the record. I'd also require lobbyists to disclose which legislators they have met with and what issues were discussed. Regular people back home deserve to know which special interests are attempting to influence their representative.
5. Have you ever been convicted of a crime (felony), been disciplined by a professional licensing board or organization or had an ethics violation filed against you? If so, please give details.
6. Have you ever filed for bankruptcy, been delinquent on your federal, state or local taxes? If so, please give the details.
7. Are there any personal details about yourself that voters would be interested in knowing?
I've been in the private sector for years watching government stray further away from its core purpose. I've watched career politicians grow more and more out of touch regular people. I'm committed to bringing less partisanship, new ideas and new energy to this office and help get South Carolina back on the right track.