COLUMBIA - Two senators are vying for the Senate's top leadership post.
Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said he had not given the idea of seeking the Senate's President Pro Tem position serious thought until he learned that Sen. John Courson was not running for the position again. Courson, R-Columbia, resigned his position June 4, saying he does not want to give up his longtime seat to become lieutenant governor.
And Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, is also vying for the pro tem position, The State newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Leatherman were unsuccessful.
To be clear, Martin said he will only run for the position if Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, runs for it first and assumes the position of lieutenant governor. McGill said in an interview that he was considering becoming Senate pro tempore, which would make him next in line to become lieutenant governor when Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell resigns to take his new job as president of the College of Charleston.
"I'm running for pro tem assuming Sen. McGill is elected pro tem and becomes lieutenant governor," said Martin, adding he didn't think having a Democrat as lieutenant governor would be a problem because the legislative session is over.
But the idea of a Democrat in the position of lieutenant governor is concerning for at least one Charleston area senator. Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, said he likes McGill on a personal level, but he said he wasn't comfortable with McGill assuming a position that could place him running the state if something were to happen to the governor.
McGill, 61, said he knows taking the post likely means the end of his 26-year Senate career. He could run again for his seat, but it would mean starting again as a freshman legislator.
McConnell has said he'll hold off from resigning to avoid leaving the Senate in a constitutional crisis.
"I'm hopeful that somebody is going to step up to be president pro tem so that I can leave," McConnell said. "I needed to be gone three weeks ago."
Cynthia Roldan can be reached 708-5891.