Is Catherine Templeton about to resign her post at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) to run for the U.S. Congress?

That’s the hottest rumor in Palmetto political circles this week … one relentlessly stoked by reports of a “major announcement” coming from SCDHEC this week.

Templeton – a former labor attorney based in Charleston, S.C. – was one  of five finalists for the U.S. Senate seat that Gov. Nikki Haley wound up giving to U.S. Rep. Tim Scott (in exchange for God only knows what). Now she’s being rumored as a contender for the first congressional district seat that Scott vacated earlier this week.

Sources close to Haley’s office tell FITS that Templeton was included on the governor’s short list in an effort to bolster her visibility in advance of an impending congressional announcement.  Meanwhile we were recently forwarded a campaign sign emblazoned with the “Templeton for Congress” logo.

So is she getting in the race?

While signs appear to be pointing to “yes,” our sources at SCDHEC say this week’s big announcement has nothing to do with politics.  Instead, they say Templeton is announcing another round of firings at the 3,200-employee agency.  They also say Templeton – who accepted the job at the agency last March – isn’t leaving anytime soon.

“This is another (reduction in force),” one of our sources said.

Hmmmmm … so which sources are correct?  Guess we’ll find out soon enough …

We’ve developed a grudging respect for Templeton in recent months – even though she’s one of several state agency heads who has banned our website at her agency. While she hasn’t been as aggressive as we’d prefer in reducing SCDHEC’s bureaucracy (or pushing for long-overdue structural reforms), to her credit she hasn’t been growing her agency either.  She also seems to be genuinely focused – if not obsessed – when it comes to efficiently discharging SCDHEC’s duties.

UPDATE: Templeton is NOT running for Congress, sources close to the SCDHEC director have confirmed. Her announcement was a “restructuring” of her agency, details of which can be found here.