Three days ago we ran a post detailing the brewing battle for South Carolina House District 99 (map), the seat currently held by suspended state representative Jimmy Merrill.
As we noted, Merrill is among the influential state lawmakers ensnared by #ProbeGate – an ongoing, multi-jurisdictional investigation into public corruption in the Palmetto State.
Eight months ago, the former “Republican” majority leader was slapped with a thirty-count indictment alleging some damning pay-to-play activity and some dubious money transfers involving a company run by his brother, Denver Merrill.
If convicted on the charges filed against him, Merrill could face more than sixty years behind bars. Meanwhile both Merrills could wind up facing serious questions from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is reportedly assisting in this ongoing probe.
With Merrill’s future very much in the air, it’s not surprising multiple candidates are lining up to take a shot at his seat – whether that’s in a special election (which would take place in the event of his resignation or removal from office) or in next spring’s partisan primary election.
This week, Mount Pleasant town councilman Mark M. Smith said he plans to run for Merrill’s seat at the first available opportunity – becoming the first “Republican” to openly announce his intentions.
“It’s true and it’s official,” Smith wrote on his Facebook page this week. “I will not seek re-election (to Mount Pleasant town council) and will be throwing my hat in the ring for a seat in the S.C. State House of Representatives.”
A funeral home director from Charleston, Smith has been active in GOP politics for years – and is a close friend of former South Carolina “Republican” governor Nikki Haley.
Smith isn’t the only one taking a hard look at this district – which Merrill has represented for the past sixteen years. Berkeley County councilman Joshua Whitley – an attorney residing on Daniel Island – is also reportedly making moves. So is attorney Shawn Pinkston of North Charleston, S.C.
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Then there’s Nancy Mace (above), the first female graduate of The Citadel and former co-owner of this website.
Mace has built a successful real estate practice for herself in the Lowcountry and it remains to be seen if she can be lured back into the political game. She ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against Lindsey Graham, then emerged two years later as a key operative on the national campaign of U.S. president Donald Trump.
Observers tell us she and Whitley would be the favorites to win this seat were they to run.
“I like her and believe she’s got what it takes to serve effectively,” one former state lawmaker told us, referring to Mace.
As for Whitley, our source said he “is a tough council member … very conservative and a smart lawyer.”
“He pretty much controlled the last school board election and helped rid the community of bad representation,” our source said.
“Both would be good representatives,” our source added.
In addition to the emerging field of GOP candidates, we’ve also heard rumors that Palmetto State Democrats are eager to put forward a credible candidate for this seat – especially if there winds up being a special election.
Stay tuned …
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