Column by Chris Graham
You don’t normally see one candidate taken aback at something said by an opponent at a debate. But Arin Sime’s two opponents for the 24th Senate District seat were thrown off by something that he had to say at Monday night’s candidates forum in Waynesboro sponsored by The Augusta Free Press and The New Dominion.
After Republican incumbent Emmett Hanger spelled out his pro-life position and voting record on abortion issues, Sime, the Libertarian nominee, said that he agrees with the social conservative on the issue.
“I agree with Sen. Hanger. As I said earlier, I believe that the role of government is to protect life, liberty and property – and the first thing that I indicated there was life. And I do think that pro-life is the position that I hold – and would vote,” Sime said in response to a question on how he would vote on legislation that would restrict a woman’s right to choose.
Hanger and Democratic nominee David Cox both expressed surprise at the answer. Hanger even noted later in response to another question that he had expected Sime to follow the Libertarian line on social issues that normally tends toward the liberal side of the political equation.
Cox could barely get past the answer from Sime as he attempted to answer the question.
“I’m rather surprised by that – because that also places government in the role very directly of some very personal decisions. And I’m rather uncomfortable with that, quite honestly,” Cox said.
“I think that this whole idea of pro-life versus pro-choice and never the ‘twain meets is neither necessary nor real in the lives of the people. That is to say, many people certainly see the importance of life, and yet also see the importance of government staying out of the most personal decisions,” Cox said.
Speculation since the forum has centered on how the Sime answer could impact the race. A fiscal conservative, Sime was seen as maybe being in a position to benefit from the strong support that conservative Republican Scott Sayre picked up in his June primary challenge to Hanger for the GOP nomination in the 24th – with the maybe part having to do with the question that had to be there regarding the consideration of conservative voters toward his perceived left-of-center stances on social issues.
Now the maybe has to do with … can Sime maybe make more of a dent in the Hanger Republican base than the conventional wisdom had been assuming?
Stay tuned – this one could get interesting.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.