Tuesday, June 17, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic Sen. Yancey McGill said Tuesday he’s willing to leave his Senate seat to become lieutenant governor for the next six months.
The 26-year Senate veteran, who represents Georgetown, Horry, Williamsburg, Berkeley and Florence counties, said he’s ready to move forward when Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell resigns.
If the Senate elects McGill as its president pro tem, he would then step into the vacated No. 2 post, as called for in the constitution’s lines of succession.
“We enter these doors with peace and with the Lord’s will, we move forward,” said McGill. “My family is very favorable, through prayer. We’ve had a full life of public service.”
McGill, No. 6 in Senate seniority, said the resignation and swearing in would be a historic moment for the Senate.
McConnell is resigning to take his new job as president of the College of Charleston, which starts July 1.
Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, resigned as president pro tem two weeks ago in order to keep his Senate seat and not be forced to temporarily become lieutenant governor. McGill then said he was considering it.
A Democrat has not held the seat since January 1995. A moderate Democrat, McGill considers himself a fiscal conservative and is chairman of a Senate Finance subcommittee.
McGill noted that his election is not certain, as the maneuvering continues to fill the Senate’s leadership hole. Senators will elect a new president pro tem after the lieutenant governor’s office is filled.
The Legislature returned Tuesday for a special session to deal with the governor’s budget vetoes and wrap up other unfinished business. But the wrangling over leadership is expected to be the Senate’s focus. Senators took a two-hour recess soon after the session opened, so the GOP and Democratic caucuses could meet.
“You don’t understand the tenderness of the day at the Senate. It is historical what might happen — or might not,” Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, said to a panel of House and Senate members trying to arrange another meeting.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said Tuesday she’s worked well with McGill during her tenure and appreciates that he’s willing to fill the lieutenant governor’s role. Before stepping down as pro tem, Courson and other Senate leaders said the post could go vacant for six months, since voters will choose in November who will be lieutenant governor through 2018. The post has been vacant before, most recently from 1965-67. But both Haley and McConnell were adamant that the job be filled.
Haley said it doesn’t bother her that McGill’s a Democrat.
“I’m perfectly fine with that,” she said.
But state GOP Chairman Matt Moore said the party is “extremely disappointed” by the prospect.
“Our grassroots worked over 100 years to win the office and it’s been given up so easily,” he said.
Nick Theodore was the state’s last Democratic lieutenant governor, leaving office in January 1995 after two terms under the late Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell. No Democrat has won a statewide seat since 2006, when voters elected Jim Rex as education superintendent. Rex unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010.
Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins contributed.