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The “Lite Gov” Switch Is Complete




Constitution, schm-onstitution …

S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman defied the law this week – successfully sidestepping his obligation to ascend to the politically impotent office of lieutenant governor of South Carolina so he could retain his influential legislative perch.

Just as he said he would … 

The powerful 85-year-old lawmaker resigned his leadership office yesterday – right before former S.C. governor Nikki Haley stepped down as governor and handed over her powers (such as they are in this legislatively-dominated state) to Henry McMaster.

Just in the knick of time …

McMaster’s ascension to the governor’s office created a subsequent vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor – which was filled today (as we predicted it would be) by S.C. Senator Kevin Bryant.

This is where the controversy comes into play …

Bryant got the “Lite Gov” job because he was elected Senate president on Wednesday – an office he held just long enough to fulfill the constitution’s executive succession requirements (which were clarified last week by the S.C. Supreme Court).

Basically he was elected solely to become lieutenant governor because Leatherman – who should have taken the job – refused to do so.

After Bryant had duly “ascended” to the lieutenant governor’s office, a second election for the presidency of the Senate was held – with Leatherman reclaiming his old office by a 28-16 margin over S.C. Senator Harvey Peeler.

That vote total, incidentally, was almost identical to the margin our sources predicted in this post previewing the Leatherman v. Peeler battle.

This is exactly the same process that took place in 2014 – the last time the lieutenant governor’s office became vacant.

It stunk then … and it stinks now.

As we’ve noted in previous coverage, lieutenant governors in South Carolina are part-time officials.  They preside over the State Senate, but they have no real power over the direction or agenda of the chamber – or over anything, really.  They are ceremonial officeholders – possessing influence only in the event of the death, resignation or removal from office of the governor.

Thankfully, this charade of “musical Senate presidents” is over for the foreseeable future.  At least we hope it is.  Beginning in 2018, governors and lieutenant governors in the Palmetto State will run on the same ticket – and vacancies in the lieutenant governor’s office will be filled by the governor.

That’s a reform this website has been championing for nearly a decade.

Still, the promise of future reform doesn’t change the fact that Leatherman – like S.C. Senator John Courson two-and-a-half years ago – has made a mockery of the S.C. Constitution by refusing to do his duty.

The contempt he has shown the rule of law is similar to the contempt he continues to show toward taxpayers.

Of course what should we expect from a hypocritical “leader” who seeks to ban “dark money” from his critics on the one hand – then uses his powerful office to shakedown dark money contributions from special interests on the other.

“Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?” English author John Harington famously asked. “Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

Indeed …

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