Glenn McConnell deserved better.
On Wednesday, the Charleston native resigned as lieutenant governor and quietly exited the Senate chamber, ending a 33-year career in state government.
He took off the ceremonial purple robe as he walked, and stopped just long enough to let a couple of senators shake his hand.
Then he was gone.
McConnell did not want a big scene. As he said in his resignation letter, he preferred that the Senate reserve its ceremony for Sen. Yancey McGill, who succeeded him as lieutenant governor.
His friends could not help but be disappointed.
"He deserved much better than what he got," says Sen. Larry Grooms.
By that, Grooms means that for decades McConnell has proven himself one of the most conscientious and tireless public servants to ever grace the halls of the Statehouse. He's been fair, and he has taken his oath of office seriously - even when it hurt him personally.
A standing ovation wouldn't have hurt.
But instead, he got one last dose of petty politics. Last week, some senators complained that McConnell's pending resignation had put them in a crisis, a leadership upheaval. They actually had the nerve to suggest McConnell was being selfish.
The truth is McConnell's departure has exposed a lot of lawmakers for the self-centered, power-hungry crybabies that they really are.
And if it didn't embarrass them, it should have.
Policy over politics
McConnell never asked for the lieutenant governor's job.
In 2012, he was in his 11th year as President Pro tem. He had led the Senate for more than a decade, and if there were any grumblings about him, it was mostly from Republicans who didn't like the fact that McConnell played by Senate rules and was fair to Democrats.
In fact, Democrats kept him in the job, supporting him almost unanimously. Some Republicans did not like the fact that McConnell showed what they considered an independent streak. He could not be counted on to carry the party's water.
But McConnell realized that he was not working for a political party - he worked only for the state. And he proved it.
When Lt. Gov. Ken Ard was forced to resign due to monumental ethical failings in 2012, McConnell was put in the same position a lot of senators faced last week.
The state constitution mandates that the Pro Tem take the lieutenant governor's job in the event of a vacancy. This rule was written in 1895, before Pro Tem was the most powerful position in the state.
At the time, McConnell's friends urged him to step down as Pro Tem - let someone else take the fall. He could get re-elected as Pro Tem.
But McConnell said he would not play politics with the constitution. So he willingly gave up the only job he had ever wanted.
If other senators took their duties as seriously, there would not have been a crisis last week.
The last man standing
It's no surprise McConnell decided to move on.
After you have had the most powerful job in the state, the least powerful position holds little challenge.
So McConnell applied and won the job as College of Charleston president. He starts July 1.
For the past month or so, college officials have urged him to come on full time, to get up to speed.
But McConnell felt the tug of loyalty. He did not want to put any senator in the same bind he faced two years ago. If he stayed until the end of session, some senators argued, they could avoid this mess. They wouldn't need a lite gov.
That was not the case.
So for weeks we have seen how few lawmakers are as willing to lay down power as McConnell was. First they begged McConnell to stay.
Then Pro Tem John Courson stepped down to avoid losing his Senate seat. The job sat open for weeks. Finally, McGill agreed to take one for the team.
And then some Republicans had the audacity to complain they didn't want a Democrat a mere heartbeat away from the governor's office - even though none of them were willing to take the position.
Their hypocrisy exposed, some of them turned on McConnell. They said it was all his fault.
No it wasn't. McConnell proved up until his final act that he valued the state over his career.
Now McConnell moves on to the C of C, where he has already faced opposition from some faculty and students who wanted a "true academic" (never mind that they don't care for the "true academic" in the job now).
Well, McConnell may not be an academic in the traditional sense, but he has proven himself time and again to be a man of integrity.
And, as we saw last week, that is a very rare trait.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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