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U.S. House hopefuls focus on economy, national security

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By Chris Sardelli

The candidates for the U.S. House District 5 seat are focused on restoring the economy and tightening national security.

Candidates are incumbent Democrat John Spratt, Republican Albert Spencer and Frank Waggoner of the Constitution Party.

The 5th Congressional District of South Carolina includes several counties, including Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Fairfield, Florence, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Marlboro, Newberry, Sumter and York.

John Spratt, Democrat

Spratt, 65, has served in the U.S. Congress for 26 years and is a life-long resident of York.

He is chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee and is the second-ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

Spratt said he's had a fairly short amount of time to campaign as he has been back to Congress twice to attend hearings about a follow-up stimulus package to improve the economy. He is confident, though, in his campaign.

"It's going well. I've had good reception everywhere I go," Spratt said.

Improving the economy is the central issue of his campaign, and Spratt said he did not take the vote for the recent $700 billion bank bailout package lightly. Despite the possibility that it could increase the national deficit, Spratt said it was a risk that needed to be taken.

"We hope to avoid a long, protracted, deep recession," Spratt said. "It behooves everybody to be optimistic because we still have a resilient economy."

Spratt is also focused on reducing income tax rates and broadening the tax base. He endorses more oil drilling to help bring down gas prices, and supports funding for alternative fuels. As for national security, he supports an increase in staffing for border patrol and customs.

In York, Spratt was a county attorney for 12 years, president of the Bank of Fort Mill and also owned an insurance agency. He was also president of the chamber of commerce.

Spratt has been married to his wife, Jane, for 40 years, and has three daughters and four grandchildren. He graduated from Davidson College, won a Marshall Scholarship to Oxford and earned a law degree from Yale.

Albert Spencer, Republican

Spencer, 64, lives in Gaffney and is a professor of physical education at Limestone College.

His campaign has held steady, Spencer said, despite his lack of money and resources in comparison with the incumbent.

"People hear about me and they like me. They wish they could hear more; unfortunately, I don't get a lot of advertising because I don't have the money," Spencer said. "So far, it's going great. I've met with a lot of people and I'm very enthusiastic."

He is primarily focused on improving the economy and strongly opposes tax increases. Instead, he would like to see tax cuts for small businesses.

"I want to make sure small businesses are given tax considerations," Spencer said.

National security and family values are two other important aspects of his campaign. Spencer agrees with John McCain's plans for a stronger military and supports tightening border security to solve immigration problems. In regards to family values, he opposes funding for abortions, and promotes choices such as adoption and adult stem cell research.

Spencer said it's important that people know his issues and what party he represents, something he said the incumbent does not do.

He is also a college coordinator for the Special Olympics, a member of the Knights of Columbus and a volunteer for Reading is Fundamental, which in-volves reading to elementary school children. He is also a member of the Southeastern Cherokee Federation and a former scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America.

Spencer has two stepchildren with his wife, Sue, and three grandchildren. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from Slippery Rock State College, a master's degree in library science from Clarion University, and doctorates in library science and physical education from Florida State University.

Frank Waggoner, Constitution

Waggoner, 48, is representing the Constitution Party. He is a resident of Sumter and works for the S.C. Department of Education, maintaining a fleet of over 150 buses and service vehicles. He also mentioned his lack of funding compared to other candidates, but said his campaign is going very well.

"For someone with absolutely no money, with really no political machine support, I think I've done pretty well," Waggoner said.

Waggoner said he has spent a lot of time meeting residents at Wal-Mart stores and grocery stores in his area, explaining his views on the economy and how he can help end the current economic downturn. He has spoken to over 1,500 people about how the United States needs to overhaul its tax system, and is a proponent of strengthening the country's money supply.

"I explain the financial situation, how our country got here, why we're having trouble and how it's really causing all our social ills," Waggoner said. "The economy is inflation-ravaged and that's why we're having social and economic problems."

Waggoner opposes the recent bank bailout package and said it will create an even larger national deficit.

"We need to get our government back that serves us properly," Waggoner said. "We should be in charge of our government."

Waggoner teaches Sunday school to high school students in his area, and coaches rec football for younger children. He worked for Norfolk Southern Railway for 20 years and has also worked as a carpenter.

He and his wife, Gabrielle, have four children. He is a graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. He is a member of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or (803) 416-8416