Inside Interview: Bill Cotty

Since 1994, Bill Cotty has represented NE Richland along with the Lugoff/Elgin in Kershaw County in the SC House. A self-described "dirt lawyer", Cotty was no stranger to politics and government previously having served two terms on the Richland Two School Board as well as having worked several years for South Carolina Congressman Tom Gettys in D.C. after graduating from college.

Last year Cotty prevailed in the face of several challengers in both the primary and general elections, including well-funded attack campaigns waged by outside interest groups like SCRG. I discussed some of these efforts on this blog last fall. Considering the ethical questions including out-of-state money, misleading attacks and possible collusion between a candidate and outside attack-dog groups, I was glad to discuss what was taking place in that race.

Some call him one of our smartest legislators ...some a RINO ...or a maverick ... and other things. In our interview he had no trouble explaining where he stands and what he believes we need to do as a state to address our challenges. His wife, Amelia, who he describes as his "reality check" joined us afterward for diner and was both charming and thoughtful. Overall, the interview was a great time and I appreciated their hospitality.

Let's throw some questions his way and see what he throws back at us:

What have been your biggest accomplishments?

I’m most proud of the role I’ve played in reducing taxes for most of our citizens, improving the budgeting process, toughening criminal laws and sentencing, and bringing accountability to public education. Under two Speakers and four Governors, I’ve served as House floor leader for welfare reform, protection of marriage, tax reform, liquor sales reform, DUI reform and addressing the Confederate flag. All of these involved bringing folks together across party, racial, and geographic lines.

Your last race was a close call. Why do you think it was so close, and what do you think you’ve learned from this?
I’m an advocate for public schools, and a fiscal conservative who is moderate to progressive on social issues. As such, I drew opposition from both political extremes and got caught in the middle. Those to the far right of my party targeted me with unlimited out-of-state funding for negative and misleading tactics in both the primary and general election. The leftists fielded a well-funded Democrat who attempted to portray himself as a moderate, while his history is that of a Clinton/Gore liberal.

In the end, it was a reaffirmation of what I always believed – if you are true to your values and speak out strongly for that which you believe to be right, while admitting that you don’t know everything and listen to the views of others with respect, voters will appreciate it and support your re-election. The people of District 79 are not stupid – they care, not just about themselves, but for our state as a whole. They listen to the issues, and their elected officials know what they think. They know I’m accessible, hard working, and where I stand and why, and that I’m not afraid to stand up and speak out for that I believe right.

What do you see as the priority issues in the ongoing term in the House?

Improving public education statewide. More than anything else, this will determine whether our state will offer the same, and greater, level of opportunity and quality of life five, ten, and twenty years from now. To succeed, especially in the poor and rural areas of our state where many of our failing schools are located, we must be innovative and partner with businesses and communities to find ways to help those areas catch up to the rest of the state.

Meaningful Worker’s Comp reform. We need a system where the vast majority of claimants can get a fair decision without the necessity of hiring an attorney- In addition, decisions should be appealed outside the existing Commission through either the Circuit or Administrative Courts.

Taxpayer Protections & Budget Reform. South Carolina as well as our counties, municipalities and school districts should have limits on increasing the tax burden on our citizens.

Gang Awareness and Crime Prevention. Gangs are real, and they are developing amongst our youth in all communities, urban and rural, irrespective of race and other demographics. Law enforcement needs our help to have the tools they need to fight gang violence.

What issues aren’t being addressed that you feel should be?

#1) Workforce development. We can’t get better paying jobs if we don’t have the people with the skills these companies need. They’ll just go elsewhere – or overseas.

#2) Health care. The wealthier retirees who are coming to our state can help leverage improvements in health care that will also improve health care for all South Carolinians, if we keep attracting them. Better prenatal and early childhood healthcare needs to be targeted, and a substantial increase in cigarette taxes is an appropriate way to fund this in my view.

#3) Balancing protecting our environment with jobs. Our quality of life and beautiful scenery help bring the jobs, tourists and wealthy retirees our state’s economy needs. We can’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

#4) Nuclear power. The Barnwell waste facility should be closed to out-of-state waste except from the two states with which we have a compact. At the same time nuclear energy production has a proven record of safe & efficient operations here and we need to take advantage of the expertise we have at the Savannah River Site and with our other nuclear power plants to secure additional nuclear facilities and support programs. Our state can attract major industrial investment in this area and help provide the additional energy needed by SC and much of the Southeast. We don’t have California brownouts here, and I want to make sure we never do.

Some of your critics have referred to you as a “RINO”? What do you think?I don’t let others define me.

If I’m a “RINO” it must mean something like Republican Independent Networking Opportunities because my prime mission in serving is to try and bring folks together across party, racial and demographic lines to address and resolve tough problems and challenges. You can’t do that taking one-sided, extremist positions and just pot shotting others from the sidelines. I want to be at the table where tough decisions are made and help lead others toward finding fair and realistic solutions.

If that’s being a RINO, I’ll continue to charge ahead and let the voters decide my fate.

Do you have any thoughts about bloggers and other “non-traditional” media outlets, such as websites or news websites?

Blogs are great – they let people present new points of view and be heard. Programs like John Stewart’s Daily Show, which interviewed me over the mini-bottle referendum, are also doing a good job opening up the debate on issues here and elsewhere and reaching new audiences. I’ve never taken myself too seriously and enjoy political satire and criticism, even when aimed at me. Those in politics who get upset over blogs or other forms of political ridicule need to lighten up a little and learn to laugh at themselves.

You spent a number of years in leadership roles in college and working for a former Congressman and then got out of the political arena. What brought you back?

We were upset over a school re-zoning issue and I spoke up for our neighborhoods. Next thing I knew my wife was organizing a campaign to elect me to the school board!

What are your plans for 2008?

I still have the passion to serve and believe I can make a difference- If my wife lets me, I’ll run for another term.

Your favorite album?

The Best of James Taylor!

8 Response to "Inside Interview: Bill Cotty"

  1. A happy supporter for 20 years 19/4/07 05:27
    The Honorable Bill Cotty is actually that by traits not title alone-honorable. I have known Representative Cotty for about 20 years and he is a consistent conservative with moderation, which is needed. I had known Rep. Cotty for years before I did business with him and used him on a real estate closing. He was thorough and answered many questions. It sure helped a young couple buying their first home. One of his assiciates also helped me draft a will, and powers of attorney, living will. I needed the legal documents fast due to leaving the country and changing circumstances that called for changes and had 2 days. He and his team were there for me as he has been as mny Representative when issues have come up. I , for the most part do not like lawyers, but Rep. Cotty is one of the exceptions.

    Although we do not agre on all issues, he is a very thorough attorney. Hence, he is a competent lawmaker that makes himself available to his constituents. A fine man that started at at a lower level and worked his way up with skill, good work habits, and a desire to serve. A fine example of a true representative.

    Earl's interview proves that Rep. Bill Cotty is available, and does not dodge stating his positions.
    A top quality man that gives up an opportiunity cost in income with out using his power and position to leverage himself deals, which definitely point to a true desire to serve with honor.

    We need more people of Rep. Bill Cotty's caliber, where service to the public is an econmic burden(opportunity cost) and not a steeping stone to climb up the socio-economic , power ladder.
    His district has been delighted at his service and his base will stay as long as he wishes to serve.
  2. Anonymous 19/4/07 15:34
    cotty is a rino. next time, letts will beat him. just wait and see.
  3. Anonymous 20/4/07 04:25
    Cotty a RINO? I guess that is what one calls a Republican who can win a General Election in a contested district.
  4. Anonymous 20/4/07 08:10
    Bill Cotty is a true leader!!
  5. moye 20/4/07 21:13
    I do not live in his district and if I did I would hope that a true conservative would challenge him where I could vote against him. Not everyone who voted against him was way out there right wing or a leftist liberal as he would like to believe. I will vote for any republican that wins the primary first off. On the liquor bill I personally believe we should have left the mini bottle and who cares if we were the only state that had them and who cares about the liquor distributors etc and what they think. Who cares guess. Guess why. About the flag I could care less but it does hurt certain people then why fly it. If you have to fly it on the grounds then fly all the flags that flew over SC since day one all in a row. Welfare reform is a joke. The public schools in this state should be ran as a business quit wasting my money. The comments on wealthy retirees sounds a bit like lets tax the rich to give to the poor. Anyone who had to spend 4 days in the jungle of South America with no one that could speak english and the only album my host's had was one someone left that was James Taylor greatest hits this heard over and over for days you can understand why I would probably not support Mr. Bill Cotty except in a general election as the GOP nominee. Also his picture looks a little like Gary McLeod.
  6. Anonymous 21/4/07 20:03
    Letts is a nut. He has ran on numerous ocassions to no avail. Letts even got caught stating he was undercover SLED and they disavowed him.
    If Letts is a conversative, it is surely not at telling the truth.

    Cotty is a man of character, and character matters.

    Maybe next time Letts will claim he was deep sixed with the CIA in Pakistan. LOL
  7. Anton J. Gunn 29/4/07 13:12
    This was a good interview, except for the mischaracterization of me as his Democratic Opposition. I never attempted to portray myself as a moderate. I am a progressive and I am practical. I don't assume that any end of the political spectrum has all the right or wrong ideas. I believe that we best government when leaders are willing to look at all sides of an issue and make a decision that is best for the PEOPLE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, not one that is best for their political persusaion.

    We have to stop getting caught up on party lables and candidates that tote their label around like its a sports franchise. That gets us stupid monolithic government and more importantly bad ideas in government.

    Neither Bill Cotty nor I operate in those frameworks.

    I still plan to run again in 2008.
  8. Earl Capps 29/4/07 13:41
    Mr. Gunn, I'm puzzled by some items that hopefully you can help clarify.

    You complained about "mischaracterization of me as his Democratic Opposition" ... but were you not the Democraticy Party candidate for the seat in 2006?

    You say you are not a moderate, not a conservative, and claim yourself to be "a progressive and I am practical". That sounds like liberal to me ... so what is the difference between your positions and those which would generally be characterized as "liberal", if indeed you say you are not liberal?

    In closing, you claim that "Neither Bill Cotty nor I operate in those frameworks." While I would hope this is the case, in this posting, isn't that what you're trying to pin on him?

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

To post a comment without having a Blogger account, select "Name/URL", put your name in, but leave the URL line blank. Email me if you'd like to comment, but need help making it work.