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Aging SC Senate “Republicans” Tiring Of Hugh Leatherman




|| By FITSNEWS ||  Senate president and finance committee chairman Hugh Leatherman has been the most powerful elected official in South Carolina for some time now.  In fact his already considerable power took a huge step forward last spring – when all but two Senators supported his “coup” for total control of the State Senate.

Now, though, several State Senators tell FITS the diminutive liberal is letting his power go to his head … alienating some senior members of his “Republican” caucus.

Apparently Leatherman’s recent effort to take control of the Senate’s calendar (thus dictating which bills receive a hearing – and which don’t) has rubbed several ranking members the wrong way.  Not only that, Leatherman’s refusal to let Senators amend a massive gas tax hike is also exposing him to criticism.

“There’s no consensus anymore,” one Senator complained to FITS.

Who is upset with Leatherman?  According to our sources, three ranking “Republican” members: “Majority” leader Harvey Peeler, former Senate president John Courson and judiciary committee chairman Larry Martin.

Peeler has always been a “middling” Senator – occasionally backing taxpayers, but more often than not supporting Leatherman’s big government agenda.  Courson and Martin are both hard core fiscal liberals who have backed Leatherman’s tax-and-spend approach to the hilt.

Courson in particular has been a die-hard opponent of tax cuts and free market education reform.

How upset are these aging “Republicans” at their liberal leader?

Very upset … in fact one Senate source told FITS tensions were at “an all-time high” and that several senior Senators were reportedly marshaling support for a “vote of no confidence” in Leatherman’s leadership.

Obviously such a move would be exceedingly difficult to pull off.  Leatherman has every single Democratic member of the S.C. Senate solidly under his thumb – and on top of that has been able to consistently count on the support of several fiscally liberal “Republicans” including Senators Thomas Alexander, Paul Campbell, Ray Cleary and Billy O’Dell (all of whom voted in support of Leatherman’s $800 million gas tax hike this week).

Also, earlier this year he reportedly struck a corrupt bargain with several fiscal conservative members over an abortion bill they favor – a move seen as an effort to solidify his positioning on a wide range of budget and procedural matters.

But there’s no doubt Leatherman – who rebounded from a serious health scare last year – is facing serious dissension.  On several fronts.

In addition to the aging “Republicans,” several younger members of the Senate are reportedly upset with his ongoing feud with governor Nikki Haley.

“He’s letting his war with the governor shut down the Senate,” one told us, citing procedural moves made in an effort to “tie the Senate in knots.”

Will this frustration boil over into an actual effort to limit Leatherman’s authority?  And if so, would such an effort have a chance?

We’ll have to wait and see … but as much as we detest Leatherman’s demonstrably failed tax-and-spend ideology, there’s no denying the Lilliputian-sized lawmaker has been head and shoulders above his Senate colleagues when it comes to playing the game.

“(Former Senate president Glenn) McConnell was good at it,” one lawmaker told us last week.  “Leatherman is great.”

Pic: Travis Bell Photography