Chip Limehouse bringing down the curtain on long legislative career

State Rep. Chip Limehouse

COLUMBIA — Veteran Lowcountry lawmaker Rep. Chip Limehouse is the latest legislator to announce he won’t be seeking re-election after the end of this term next year.

The Charleston Republican — who influenced the construction of many of Mount Pleasant’s roads — will leave a void in the House chambers, his peers said, after serving for more than 20 years in the General Assembly.

“It’s time to turn the page,” Limehouse said. “Making the decision to not run again was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life, because my inclination is to run and run. Public service is in my DNA.”

Limehouse, 53, has served as a lawmaker for most of his adult life, having been recruited by former House Speaker David Wilkins, taking the House District 110 seat from a Democratic incumbent in 1994.

Since then, Limehouse championed legislation that created the state’s Infrastructure Bank, which financed the construction of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. It also built Mount Pleasant’s major roadways. Limehouse also served on the Infrastructure Bank’s board.

Most recently, Limehouse was among those who voted for a borrowing plan that Gov. Nikki Haley slammed and ultimately killed that would have brought more than $100 million to Lowcountry projects, including $35 million for Trident Technical College’s Aeronautical Training Center and $50 million for the Medical University of South Carolina’s new women’s and children’s hospital.

He’s also sponsored controversial legislation that would increase penalties on those who perform illegal abortions, outlaw the use of Sharia law as a defense in court, and reinforce a law preventing more states from bringing low-level radioactive waste to South Carolina.

Rep. Mike Sottile, R-Isle of Palms, who has been Limehouse’s deskmate during the last seven years, said Limehouse’s seat on the House’s budget-writing panel gave him a “tremendous amount of influence” that the people of Charleston have benefitted from.

“His fingerprints are all over Charleston County,” Sottile said. “I’m going to really hate to see him go.”

Limehouse also served as chairman of the Charleston County Aviation Authority. Selling land to Boeing is one of his highlights as chairman, including a more than $150 million makeover for the airport that included a dome design to help capture natural sunlight.

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Charleston resident and Medal of Honor recipient retired Maj. Gen. James Livingston, who worked closely with Limehouse to help allocate money toward the Patriots Point Medal of Honor Museum, said Limehouse has always had the interests of the Lowcountry in mind.

Russell Guerard, who ran against Limehouse in the Republican primary in 2014, already had announced that he would be running for the seat again.

“There’s only three ways to leave the Legislature: you can either die, you can be defeated or you can resign,” ex-U.S. Rep. Tommy Hartnett said. “And the latter of those three is the much better way to leave the Legislature. I admire him for doing it.”

Limehouse said he’ll turn his attention to his real estate business once he’s out of the Legislature, but wouldn’t rule out running for office again.

“This is not an end to my public service,” Limehouse said.

Reach Cynthia Roldan (843) 577-7111.