Following the departure of two of South Carolina’s top Democratic politicians, State Sen. Ronnie Sabb, representing parts of Horry and Georgetown counties, is moving up within party leadership.
Sabb, of State Senate District 31, recently won another term in the senate and will now also serve as the assistant minority leader within the South Carolina Senate’s Democratic Party caucus.
In his new role as minority leader, Sabb will work with the new minority leader Sen. Brad Hutto to direct the legislative priorities for the minority party. Essentially this means he will work directly with policy experts to help draft legislation, lead negotiations with the majority party and help lead the other Democratic Party senators.
“It’s a leadership position that will expose us to higher level conversations which means we are at the table. It gives us the opportunity to share what we know,” Sabb said. “And what I know is the area I represent. I know the people, how wonderful they are, how talented they are and how anxious they are to progressively improve.”
The promotion within the party comes at an interesting time for South Carolina Democrats following unfavorable outcomes during the 2020 election, particularly losing ground in the senate. Sabb defeated a Republican challenger to keep the seat he has held since 2014.
While there is work to be done, Sabb said he is ready for the challenge.
On a national level, Sabb said he hopes South Carolinians will have the ear of its new national party leader. Sabb credited President-elect Joe Biden’s victory during the South Carolina Presidential Preference Primary as a turning point of the campaign.
“I was impressed with his speech that he made clear that he recognized those who have had his back and continue to have his back and that he will have our back. I think bodes well for the state of South Carolina,” Sabb said, of Biden.
To prepare for this role, Sabb said he is drawing inspiration from leaders such as his high school principal Charles Edward Murray, South Carolina politicians Sen. Vincent Sheheen, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and former President Barack Obama. He is studying up on what the role would entail, while seeking guidance from past leaders and policy experts.
“When we stop learning, we probably stop living. I always want to learn something that makes me a better me and qualifies me to lead,” Sabb said. “The one thing I know is I probably won’t be as smart as the people around me, but I think building relationships with those persons ... lends itself to greater growth in me.”
A lawyer by trade, Sabb attended the University of Florida for law school and previously served in the South Carolina House of Representatives. His district is mostly rural spanning Horry, Georgetown, Williamsburg, Florence and Berkeley counties. He also serves on the Agriculture and Natural, Judiciary, Labor Commerce and Industry, Rules and Transportation senate committees.
Sabb said he hopes his leadership role within the party will better allow him to advocate for rural South Carolinian needs within the senate. Issues he hopes to champion both as a new party leader and senator include economic development, increasing educational opportunity and improving quality rural broadband access.
“Economic development for rural South Carolina continues to be a challenge. It will be my hope that given some of the high level conversation we have with people looking to grow and relocate to South Carolina, that they will grow to appreciate the beauty of my area,” Sabb said. “The other part is building infrastructure that is appropriate for business.”
At the end of the day, Sabb is working to rise to the challenge of leading the Democratic Party in the senate and looks forward to working with all South Carolina senators regardless of party.
He believes while SC senators represent a party, they are ultimately serving all South Carolinians.
“I have nothing but admiration for my colleagues,” Sabb said. “I want to be a team player along with them in this role. My position is ultimately a title. Titles do not make us; we make the titles. And so, I just intend to be a good member of this team of awesome Democratic senators in particular, but really all senators ... we are all South Carolina senators.”