COLUMBIA - Politics were at play on Tuesday when the Senate voted to adjourn just half an hour after returning from recess in an effort to delay the vote on who will become the state's next lieutenant governor.
Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, walked into the Statehouse on Tuesday ready to be elected as the Senate's president pro tem. He would then ascend to the position of lieutenant governor.
McGill said the resignation and swearing-in would be a historic moment for the Senate. A Democrat has not held the seat since 1995, also under a Republican governor.
But chatter of the potential that a Republican was considering stepping up to run for pro tem against McGill delayed the vote. And in the background, there was also the discussion about Sens. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who are vying for the pro tem position, once someone takes over the lieutenant governor's position.
The delay is causing a "hardship" for Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who has said he's been ready for resign for weeks. McConnell is stepping down to take his new job as president of the College of Charleston on July 1.
"It's increasing the pressure on me," McConnell said. "I need to be down in Charleston. I'm already three weeks later than I should be into the transition."
Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, resigned his position as Senate President Pro Tempore on May 28, saying he did not want to give up his longtime seat to become lieutenant governor. If McConnell resigns before the Senate leaves Columbia, it could create a constitutional crisis for the state. McConnell has repeatedly said he will not leave the Senate in crisis.
"I really think what they need to do is decide on this issue leadership," said McGill about the vote. "It is evident that President McConnell wants to get on with his business at the college."
Matt Moore, the Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said in a Tweet he was "extremely disappointed" with the potential of a Democrat as lieutenant governor.
"Our grassroots worked 100+ years to win the office & it's given up so easily," he wrote.
Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said Tuesday at least one Republican Senator was mulling the idea of running against McGill. There were rumors after the Senate adjourned that Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, would be that senator.
Thurmond denied it, however, saying that he simply voiced concern over having a Democrat become the state's second in command. He added he hasn't made "any decision."
"That's something that all of us in the caucus should be weighing, whether we want to put our names in the hat," Thurmond said. "But I made a commitment to my district that I would serve for four years. I'd have to go back on that commitment. It doesn't change my opinion that we should have a Republican in that position."
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.
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