NEWBERRY — Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Warren addressed the Newberry County Republican Party at its monthly meeting on Thursday. The meeting was held at Bill & Fran’s restaurant in Newberry.
“I am a businessman, I am a conservative, and I am a Marine,” said Warren. “I am not a career politician, a government insider, or a lawyer. I think as we are electing our next governor, we need true leadership, we need conservative leadership, we need competency, and that’s why I’m running.”
Warren is the fifth Republican to enter the race for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, joining incumbent Henry McMaster of Columbia, Charleston attorney Catherine Templeton, current Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill of Kingstree. Vying for the Democratic nomination are state Rep. James Smith of Columbia, Charleston consultant Phil Noble, and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis.
Regarding his personal background, he said, “So I grew up in Greenville, I’m a native of South Carolina, there are not a lot of us left, but I grew up in Greenville. I tell people I grew up when Greenville was only one block downtown and it went from the Hyatt, all the way to Trio. So, I thought we made it big when we got a Fuddruckers. I’m married to Courtney Warren, we met on a blind date shortly after she left the White House working for President Bush. I tell people that after the second date, I knew I had to marry her, and she felt the exact same way. It just took her a year-and-a-half to get there. But she did get there.”
Warren said that at the time of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he attended Washington & Lee University, and left school to join the United States Marine Corps. “When 9/11 happened, I felt called to join the Marine Corps to lead Marines in combat to fight Al-Qaeda,” he said. “And I was given that opportunity. I joined Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. I was commander of 1st platoon, we deployed in March of 2006 to Ramadi, Iraq. While we were in Ramadi, I led over 300 combat missions taking the fight directly to Al-Qaeda. Our platoon, we got hit pretty hard. We had one-third Purple Hearts, we lost 18 in the battalion, but ultimately, we employed some innovative counter-insurgency tactics that really helped secure Ramadi, and enabled us as a country to eventually secure all of Anbar province.”
“So, it was a very rewarding experience. I tell people the greatest honor of my life was fighting for my flag and leading Marines in combat. That means everything to me, and I would not trade that seven-month period for any other time period in my life. Shortly after coming back, I was promoted, I went on a second deployment, kind of scattered throughout the Middle East, and then I came out of the Marine Corps,” he added.
Upon his return from active duty, Warren founded Lima One Capital, a mortgage finance company based in Greenville and named for his first call-sign while in Ramadi, “Lima One.” He said that his company has been named “Fastest-Growing Company in South Carolina,” one of the “Best Places to Work in South Carolina” and the “Most Ethical Company in South Carolina.”
“I’m running for governor because I really feel called, similar to joining the Marine Corps fighting that type of insurgency, now I feel called to fight a different type of insurgency, a political insurgency down in Columbia,” he said.
Delving into his platform, Warren focused on the V.C. Summer crisis, education, and ethics reform. “We lost $4 billion as a state with the Santee Cooper nuclear debacle. We’re 50th in education. I tell people, you know, if you’re a football fan, and there are 160 schools in D1, how would you feel when your team finishes 160th? We should have that same shame in finishing 50th in education.”
“We have an ethical problem. You know, Richard Quinn has been tied to Henry McMaster for the past 30 years, and Quinn has had a tremendous impact of stealing our taxpayer money. I’m asked often times, ‘well, corruption is corruption, why should I care?’ And I tell you corruption costs all of us a ton of money. So, that’s why we should care, on top of the ethical problems.”
“So, as governor, I want to solve several problems. I want to install ethics reform. I guarantee you the number one thing that I want to get done as governor is get term limits passed. Because we need new blood, we don’t need people going down to Columbia and living off the state, we need them to survive in the real world with the rest of us.”
On education, Warren added, “I said that we’re 50th in the country, but it’s not because of revenue. You know, it’s not a money problem. We spend over $13,000 a year on every student throughout the state for education. The problem is, when you look at where the money goes, only 44% actually reaches the classroom. And that’s a terrible thing, and we need to change it.”
“We also need to require all parents to have the right to send their students, their kids, to a school of their choosing. It is shameful that we have to be required to send their kid to a failing school. We also need to make the superintendent appointed by the governor, and I’ll fight for that.”
“Finally, I will fight for the unborn, and I will fight to reform the tax code. Right now, I’m a small business owner, and I can tell you our tax code penalizes our small business owners throughout the state,” he said. “So we need to lower the income tax, lower the sales tax, and we can broaden the sales tax base.”
On desirable qualities in a governor, Warren said, “Leadership comes down to three things. The first thing is core values, the core values of the individual that’s leading. I can tell you I’m a staunch conservative, I believe in service, I believe in common sense, and I’m a Christian. So, we need those core values, those characteristics to take to Columbia.”
“The second thing leadership is composed of is core competencies, and I will tell you that we need someone that has actually created a job. I am the only one in the entire race that has actually created a job. Everyone talks about it, but I’ve created hundreds of them,” he said. “And finally, leadership is all about courage.”
When asked about the recent effort by some freshman lawmakers to call a convention to amend the state constitution, Warren replied, “I think it’s vital to do that. I don’t think it’s going to be successful right now, again, because I don’t think they have the votes in the Senate. There are a few Senators that can hold that up, but I think revitalizing our state constitution, bringing it up to date, installing term limits, installing accountability-based budgeting, making sure that every ten years, every state agency and every government regulation has a sunset clause, so where if they can’t justify their existence, then they go away. It’s been very successful in Texas.”
“And we need to have more authority given to the governor, in places like secretary [of state] or superintendent of education, because right now, the governor has no control, ultimately, over education,” Warren said. “I’m not sure we have the votes right now, but I applaud those freshman legislators who want to take that fight on.”
When asked about offshore drilling, he said, “Tourism is our number one source of revenue, it’s our number one industry, so right now, unless someone can convince me that we can drill very safely and not disrupt our number one industry from an economic standpoint, I don’t see a need for it.” He added that he favored obtaining oil and natural gas from Alaska as a means of waning America’s dependency on foreign oil.
Regarding gun rights, Warren said he was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, saying, “I tend to think that liberals are never going to be happy, and they believe in incremental change as well. So as soon as they dig in and say, ‘let’s ban this,’ that’s just a step towards banning everything.” When asked about suppressors, he replied, “I’m not sure anyone right now needs a suppressor. You know, in the military, in the Marine infantry unit, we didn’t use them. I don’t know what the laws are on suppressors, so I’d have to look at that, but I will fight vehemently for our Second Amendment rights.”