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Powerful S.C. Senate President Glenn McConnell has surrendered his leadership position in the State Senate for the political impotence of the South Carolina lieutenant governor’s office – an unexpected move that will no doubt have seismic repercussions across state government.

Defying conventional wisdom, McConnell has chosen not to temporarily relinquish his leadership post in the State Senate in an effort to avoid succeeding former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, who resigned Friday morning in the wake of a criminal probe into numerous ethics violations.

(For up to the minute updates on the Ard saga, click here).

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions I have faced,” McConnell said in a statement accompanying his announcement. “The greatest honor of my career has been representing the people of District 41 in the South Carolina Senate. But I came here with a deep commitment to the Constitution, and I will not abandon it.”

McConnell – a member of the State Senate since 1981 – has been one of the most influential lawmakers in the Palmetto State for years, routinely bending the state’s upper chamber to his will as a result of his numerous alliances and mastery of parliamentary procedure.

Now he is the state’s 89th Lieutenant Governor – inheriting a part-time, mostly ceremonial office with limited authority.

His departure leaves three voids: The Senate President Pro Tempore position, the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the District 41 State Senate seat. Needless to say, politicos are scrambling to fill all three of those vacuums.

We’ve gotta say … we didn’t see this coming.

Like most Palmetto political observers, we believed that McConnell would somehow find a way to resign his Senate leadership post prior to Ard submitting his resignation – and then reclaim it after the Senate had voted on a replacement for Ard.

McConnell supporters praised the veteran lawmaker for his selflessness, while the Charleston Republican’s detractors said that he only took the position because he lacked the votes to reclaim his old leadership post in the event he attempted to “Do-Si-Do” around the State Constitution.

We’re not sure which account is accurate, but McConnell has done the right thing by not playing games here.

His decision has also sparked a flood of rumors about the seriousness of the various scandals surrounding S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (click here and here).

Does the man known around the State House as “The Wiz” know something we don’t?

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