COLUMBIA — State lawmakers elected new members to several of the state’s public colleges and universities Wednesday, with many of the chosen sporting family and other connections to the Legislature.
New Charleston-area college board members elected Wednesday:The CitadelGene Pinson of GreenwoodCollege of CharlestonL. Cherry Daniel of CharlestonG. Lee Mikell of ColumbiaEdward L. Thomas of AndersonRenee Buyck Romberger of GreenvillePansy King-Reid of Fort MillRicci Land Welch of ManningHenrietta U. Golding of Myrtle BeachRenee B. Goldfinch of Myrtle BeachDavid Mikell Hay of CharlestonMedical University of South CarolinaMichael E. Stavrinakis of CharlestonWilliam H. Bingham Sr. of CayceCharles W. Shulze of GreenwoodCharles B. Thomas Jr. of GreenvilleRagin C. Monteith of ColumbiaE. Conyers O’Bryan Jr. of FlorenceJames A. Battle of Nichols
One of the legislators blasted the selection of connected candidates as improper while others said connections played no role in which candidates won.
Of 48 seats elected Wednesday, at least nine chosen board members are connected to the Legislature, either through family, marriage or as a former lawmaker.
In two of the most closely watched races, Michael Stavrinakis of Charleston, brother of Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, bested Susan Pearlstine for a seat on the Medical University of South Carolina board.
Pearlstine contended before the election that lawmakers choose college board candidates based on who they know.
Pansy King-Reid of Fort Mill, sister of Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, edged out Sumter doctor Michael Todd Warrick for a seat on the College of Charleston board. King-Reid won despite concerns among some lawmakers about her tax returns.
Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, said he voted for Stavrinakis because of his business experience, not because he had a connection to the Legislature.
“I think we need more of that in government,” Quinn said. “It has nothing to do with who his brother is.”
Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greer, said following the elections that lawmakers voting for connected candidates in contested races was nothing less than nepotism.
“I’ve had people argue, ‘Well, just because they’re my brother or my mother or my sister doesn’t mean that they’re not qualified,’ ” Henderson said. “I’m not arguing anybody’s qualifications. My point is that — and many of my colleagues agree with me — we don’t want to be put on the spot to feel like we have an obligation to vote for them.”
Henderson said she did feel pressured to vote for connected candidates but did not vote for them Wednesday unless they were running unopposed.
She introduced a bill on Tuesday that would bar the General Assembly from appointing immediate family members of sitting lawmakers to a judgeship or board seat at a public college or university. The measure would require family members to wait for at least one year after their lawmaker family member left the Legislature to be eligible for a college board seat or judgeship. Henderson’s proposal already has picked up close to 40 GOP co-sponsors.
The bill almost certainly will not pass this session because it was introduced after a legislative deadline.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said he opposes Henderson’s bill but it will receive a committee hearing.
“I’m not for disenfranchising a whole class of people just because they might be related to a legislator,” he said.
Reach Stephen Largen at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.
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