In speaking with members of the S.C. General Assembly regarding today’s big legislative election for chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court – one factor working in favor of challenger Costa Pleicones has been his adamant insistence that he would, if elected, step down upon reaching the state’s mandatory retirement age.

For him, that’s December 31, 2016.

Meanwhile current S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal had previously said that she “planned” to step down upon reaching the retirement age – which for her would become effective on December 31, 2015.

Judges in South Carolina are required to retire at the end of the year in which they turn 72 – assuming they want to be paid benefits from the state’s retirement fund.

According to the lawmakers we spoke with, Toal’s less-than-firm commitment to retiring at this cutoff date was costing her votes.

“A lot of us viewed the language she used – this ‘I’m planning on (retiring)’ language – as less than ironclad,” one lawmaker told FITS. “She needed to make a definitive statement one way or the other as to her intentions.”

Toal did that recently, telling reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State that she would indeed step down at the appointed time.

That means if Toal prevails, lawmakers would be able to appoint a new justice to the court one year earlier than if Pleicones were to win … which strikes us as a fairly pointless distinction.

This website has made its indifference related to this race abundantly clear. Both candidates are too old and too liberal for the job – and we’ve got zero use for either of them. Not only that, the legislative election process exposes the very worst of South Carolina’s corrupt government – with powerful lawmakers twisting arms and trading favors to line up votes (often at the expense of taxpayers).

As we’ve said all along, judges at every level in the Palmetto State should be appointed by the Governor’s Office … with the S.C. Senate providing its advice and consent on those selections.

Anyway, we’ve published the dueling legislative “whip counts” related to this race … which most Palmetto political observers expect to go down to the wire.