Every four years, presidential candidates choose their running mate. Next month, South Carolina will decide if its governor should do the same.
The state’s voters will decide only one constitutional amendment question on Nov. 6: whether the governor and lieutenant governor should run on the same ticket beginning in 2018. They currently run in separate races, and regardless of next month’s vote, they will do so again in two years.
There’s been very little politicking for or against the question, meaning that most expect it will pass.
Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday she always mentions the referendum when speaking to groups and urges voters to pass it. “I think it’s good for the taxpayers to have a team working for them rather than two separate people with two separate agendas,” she said.
Not only would this amendment change how the lieutenant governor is elected, but it also would change his or her duties — and possible future political prospects.
Former Gov. Jim Hodges said he introduced a bill back in the 1990s to put the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket — and that was before he thought about running for governor. It went nowhere at the time, and Hodges served four years as a Democratic governor with a Republican lieutenant.
Hodges described his working relationship with Lt. Gov. Harvey Peeler as cordial but complicated.
“The lieutenant governor made it very clear he was going to be running against me for governor four years from then,” Hodges said. “It makes it very difficult to work closely with someone who is measuring your drapes.”
This year, the Legislature agreed to put the question to voters not long after Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned in disgrace and pleaded guilty to several ethics violations.
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who gave up his powerful Senate post to uphold the state’s constitution and succeed Ard, said those events were not the sole reason it passed. State leaders, including former Gov. Mark Sanford, Haley and McConnell, had pushed the idea for years.
McConnell said the Senate finally passed it when the effective date was changed to 2018 — making it less of a factor in the 2014 governor’s race.
Also, the lieutenant governor no longer will have the ceremonial role of presiding over the Senate but instead will tackle administrative tasks assigned by the governor. Lawmakers and the governor eventually will decide whether the state’s Office on Aging should remain under the lieutenant governor’s realm or be assigned elsewhere.
Many South Carolina voters already may assume the lieutenant governor runs with the governor, since that’s the way it works on the federal level, said College of Charleston political science professor Kendra Stewart.
Stewart noted South Carolina already has more elected constitutional officers (nine) than most any other state. The change would strengthen the governor’s role in the future.
“I think if people understand what it (the amendment) tries to do, they will support it,” she said. “It streamlines things.”
While no one is actively campaigning against it, Hodges said there are some populist voters who believe they should elect every office.
And there may be another faction that doesn’t like the change.
“I imagine there are four or five people who want to run for lieutenant governor who are opposed to it,” he joked.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.