S.C. Supreme Court ruling could affect political futures of attorney general, solicitor

A S.C. Supreme Court ruling issued Wednesday could impact the political futures of Attorney General Alan Wilson and 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe because of their stances on a Statehouse corruption probe.

“It’s difficult to argue (the ruling is) going to help Wilson and his future political ambition,” said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts. “It depends on if it just dies down after this, or if it continues to be in the news.”

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a 4-1 decision declaring Pascoe had the authority to continue as the special prosecutor and convene a grand jury — something Wilson argued only he had the authority to do. Wilson, a Republican, had recused himself from the case in saying he had a conflict of interest.

Knotts said the high court’s slam dunk against Wilson could create a setback for any potential 2018 gubernatorial plans. Already the GOP field is expected to be crowded, with at least six hopefuls considering bids.

John Crangle, director of the South Carolina branch of the public watchdog group Common Cause, said he thinks Wilson hurt himself by blocking Pascoe from convening a grand jury.

“If I was advising Wilson, I would not advise him to run for governor,” Crangle said. “I don’t think he’s electable right now. His chances of winning the Republican nomination are not good.”

On the other hand, Crangle thinks Pascoe’s potential corruption investigations could help bolster his shot at higher office if speculation the Democrat 1st Circuit solicitor might run for attorney general plays out.

“It certainly won’t, in any way, hurt Pascoe’s stature if he wants to run for attorney general or governor, to have on his record that he’s convicted some public officials of corruption,” he said.

Knotts said voters typically are supportive of anyone working to take down corruption, on both the state and federal level.

Either way, Knotts said any potential fallout depends how informed South Carolinians are on the complicated legal issue that played out in the state Supreme Court.

It’s too early to tell how in depth 2018 voters are paying attention to the case, Knotts said, “or if it’s even a clear story to digest. Some things are hard for the general public to figure out what happened.”

Staff reporter Gavin Jackson contributed to this report. Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.