SC politician's welfare comments called `immoral'
By SEANNA ADCOX
The Associated Press
Monday, January 25, 2010; 10:47 PM
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- When things looked their darkest for Gov. Mark Sanford
- when he was in danger of being impeached for running off to Argentina to see his mistress - his best insurance policy may well have been South Carolina's lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer.
Lawmakers knew if they removed Sanford, they would end up with Bauer, a fiercely ambitious Republican with a reputation for reckless and immature behavior.
Now Bauer has folks shaking their heads again, after he likened government assistance to the poor to feeding stray animals.
At a town hall meeting Thursday, Bauer, who is running for governor in his own right now that Sanford is term-limited, said: "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."
Democrats and others railed at him.
"I am disgusted by these comments. They show an unbelievable lack of compassion toward the unemployed workers in our state who are hurting during these hard times," said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Democrat who is also running for governor. "His comments were immoral and out of line."
South Carolina schools Superintendent Jim Rex, another Democratic candidate for governor, called Bauer's comments "reprehensible" and said he should apologize.
Bauer said Monday that he regrets his choice of words but that government should expect welfare recipients to try to better themselves. He wants to require them to take drug tests and attend parent-teacher conferences if they have children in school.
A child of divorce who benefited from free lunches himself, Bauer insisted he wasn't bad-mouthing people laid off from work in the recession or advocating taking food from children, but rather emphasizing the need to break the cycle of dependency.
"Do I wish I'd used a different metaphor? Of course I do," the 40-year-old said. "I didn't intend to offend anyone."
Bauer has long been a love-him-or-hate-him figure in South Carolina politics. A nonstop campaigner and self-described workaholic, he was the youngest elected lieutenant governor in the country when he first won the No. 2 spot in 2002 at age 33.
Before his 2006 re-election, he shattered his heel when the single-engine plane he was piloting ran into power lines, crashed and caught fire. Bauer's office said the maintenance company that overhauled the engine botched the job. Court records show that a federal administrative law judge in June fined the company for returning the plane with incorrect bolts.
Full audio here