• Melissa Watson

The 7th District deserves the leadership that U.S. Rep. Tom Rice has failed to show

Please check out my Letter to the Editor in the Sun News- September 13, 2020

Recently my opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, wrote an op-ed stating that President Donald Trump “has delivered on his promise to bring opportunity back” to South Carolina and America.

Rice’s op-ed painted a rosy picture from a nice beach home in a lovely gated community in Horry County.

However, in Dillon — where I am from — the picture is not so rosy.

In the Pee Dee outsourcing began during the early 1990s, and many good-paying textile and factory jobs left the state to go overseas. Those good-paying jobs have been replaced by low-wage jobs with few benefits.

Wages are stagnant, and people are cobbling together two or sometimes three low-paying jobs to make ends meet.

Dillon, Marlboro and Marion have the highest rates of poverty in South Carolina; Dillon ranks No. 2 while Marlboro and Marion rank Nos. 3 and 10, respectively.

In addition Marlboro Park Hospital has closed because South Carolina declined to expand Medicaid expansion.

Because the window to join Obamacare was closed prematurely, many citizens found themselves without health care during the worst pandemic in history; death rates in the United States are approaching 200,000 and more than 6 million have been infected by COVID-19.

And that’s a reminder that both President Trump and Congressman Rice — who should be seeking to represent and unite all the people of our great country — would rather sow seeds of division, hate and racism.

Both Trump and Rice refer to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan flu” rather than by its actual scientific name.

Does either man realize that Asian Americans are among the fastest growing minorities in this country?


So why is Congressman Rice so obsessed with defending Trump?

The reason is because Rice’s own election is uniquely tied to Trump’s success.

While Trump is on the presidential ballot, there is no mistaking this fact: the November election is about more than Trump.


It is also about Tom Rice’s failures to lead.

The motto that I teach and live by is this: what is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.

Leadership is about living up to that motto, and Rice has been given many opportunities to lead by increasing economic development for all of South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District.

Rice could have voted for a minimum wage increase.

But he chose not to do so.

Rice could have led the way and voted for an offshore oil drilling ban.

Instead he chose Big Oil over our local economy.

Rice could have encouraged Trump to allow states to make their own decisions about opening schools.

Instead he chose to play politics with our children and teachers.


South Carolina is still reporting more than 500 new coronavirus cases per day, and Rice — who has acknowledged that he previously contracted the virus — could have led the charge for more local mask ordinances across South Carolina and in Horry County, which is a coronavirus hot spot.

Instead Rice chose to joke about his diagnosis and refused to wear a mask while thousands of South Carolinians have died from the same disease.

Whenever Tom Rice could have provided leadership, he has chosen instead to follow the leader.


The 7th Congressional District deserves true leadership.

And it’s time to elect a new leader.

As a classroom teacher I know it is difficult to stand up against bullies. I know it is difficult to go against your own leaders. But I have done it time and time again.

You know why?

Because doing what is right matters more than anything — and putting the well-being of the country first is the only thing.

I will fight to raise wages so that we can move people out of poverty.

I will fight to improve health care so that people don’t have to choose between food and medicine.

I will fight for quality public education so that people can increase their opportunities.

I will fight for police reform because being Black should not be a crime.

I will fight for infrastructure improvements because rain should not trigger trauma.

And I will fight to make sure that America lives out the true meaning of its creed so that every American is valued — and that every immigrant who comes here looking for better opportunities for their families feels welcome.

Because this America belongs to all of us.

Melissa Watson is the Democratic Party’s candidate for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District seat.

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