Columbia -- State senators are talking about who might succeed Lt. Gov. Ken Ard should the embattled Florence Republican vacate his $46,545-a-year, part-time post.
Two lawmakers prominently mentioned in private conversations among legislators -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- are two of the Senate's more senior GOP members: state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, and Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, several lawmakers said Tuesday.
Both are Senate committee chairmen, well regarded and have a reputation for being able to get along with other people.
"People have asked me about this, and this is a very sensitive subject," said Courson on Tuesday, acknowledging senators are discussing a possible successor to Ard.
Courson, 66, said he wanted to make clear that he is not seeking to become lieutenant governor, adding he wishes Ard well with his current difficulties. "I am happy being chair of the Senate Education Committee, and my intent is to run again for Senate next year."
Should Ard leave his post, Courson said he might consider serving out the rest of Ard's four-year term. "But with one caveat -- that being that I would not run for re-election as lieutenant governor," Courson said.
Neither Ard nor Martin, 54, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, could be reached.
Under S.C. law, if the lieutenant governor's post becomes vacant, the presiding officer of the 46-member state Senate would assume the lieutenant governor's post.
Lawmakers contacted Tuesday said President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, does not want the lieutenant governor's job. Under one scenario being discussed by senators, here is what would happen if Ard leaves office:
McConnell temporarily would give up the president pro tem's job. Senators then would elect a new, already agreed-upon president pro tem. That new president pro tem then would become lieutenant governor, and McConnell would be re-elected Senate president pro tem. McConnell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday that Wilson and his staff are studying Ard's situation to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.
Last month, the State Ethics Commission ruled Ard, 47, spent campaign money on improper items, including a family vacation, clothes and iPads, and deliberately misled investigators when asked about it. The commission fined Ard $48,000 and made him pay $12,500 for the cost of its investigation.