The 61-year-old “Republican” – who was the first victim of the Palmetto State’s ongoing #ProbeGate investigation – pleaded guilty in October 2014 to six ethics violations and resigned his office. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to cooperate with investigators (which he’s done) and to refrain from seeking public office for a period of three years.
Harrell’s probationary period is now over, and as we reported on Saturday he is “seriously considering” seeking office during the 2018 election cycle.
Which office, though?
Since we filed our original report, we can confirm that Harrell is indeed making plans to run for S.C. House District 114 (map) – the seat he held for nearly 22 years prior to his resignation three years ago.
Several donors who have spoken with Harrell tell us he is lining up support to run for this seat – calling in a wide range of favors he accumulated during his years in power in Columbia, S.C.
Harrell’s plans put him on a collision course with freshman state representative Lin Bennett, a former Charleston County GOP chairwoman who has long been one of the former Speaker’s staunchest supporters.
Bennett, who is one of Harrell’s neighbors, has made it clear she has no plans to step down – putting to rest the rumors that she ran for this seat merely to serve as a “placeholder” for Harrell.
In other words, this strikes us as a campaign that could get very ugly very fast …
Harrell was first elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1992 – and was promptly chosen as the chairman of the chamber’s freshman caucus. From 1997 to 1999 he served as House majority leader and from 1999 to 2005 he was chairman of the chamber’s influential ways and means committee – which gets the first crack at writing the state budget each year. In 2005, Harrell was elected Speaker of the House – replacing David Wilkins, who was appointed by former U.S. president George W. Bush as America’s ambassador to Canada.
He served in that role until his resignation in 2014.
As we noted in our original report, we were not favorably inclined towards Harrell during his tenure as a legislative leader – and are unlikely to support his return to politics.
Having said that, we look forward to providing both Harrell and Bennett (and anyone else who jumps into this race) with access to our microphone as they make their case to voters over the months to come.
For those of you watching the calendar, filing for state offices opens in March with primary elections scheduled for early June.
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