South Carolina governor Henry McMaster was praised this week for making a “non-political” choice in filling a temporary vacancy in the Palmetto State’s fifth judicial circuit – where outgoing solicitor Dan Johnson has been automatically suspended from office following his indictment on multiple federal fraud charges.
The career politician appointed deputy attorney general Heather Weiss to run Johnson’s office on an interim basis. Weiss will reportedly take a leave of absence from the office of S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson during her interim appointment.
In breaking this news, reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper noted that McMaster “avoided choosing a person directly associated with a political party.” He also noted that the GOP governor declined to select “one of the two candidates running for Johnson’s post.”
To recap: With multiple scandals swirling around his head, Johnson was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary for this office back in June by Columbia, S.C. attorney Byron Gipson. The following month, another Columbia attorney – John Meadors – submitted signatures to challenge Gipson as a petition candidate in the November election.
While it is true McMaster refrained from appointing either of these two candidates as interim solicitor, Monk’s reporting would leave readers with the impression the governor eschewed a political bent in temporarily filling this office.
Is that accurate, though? No … in fact McMaster’s choice for this post has direct ties to one of the two candidates currently campaigning for this seat.
Prior to being hired by Wilson, Weiss was an assistant solicitor in the fifth circuit. She lost that job shortly before Johnson inherited the office, however. What did she do to warrant getting pushed out? Nothing … at least not professionally.[su_dominion_video_scb]
According to our sources, Weiss felt compelled to leave the office because she openly supported Meadors’ Democratic primary bid against Johnson in 2010. Meadors was handily defeated by Johnson in the 2010 Democratic runoff election, and the incoming solicitor reportedly made it crystal clear that anyone who opposed him would be out of a job as soon as he took office.
Weiss saw the handwriting on the wall … and acted accordingly.
Her prior political support for Meadors is problematic, however … especially if McMaster was hoping to avoid the appearance of meddling in the upcoming election. Even after her appointment by McMaster this week, Weiss’ social media pages were still displaying posts supportive of Meadors …
(Click to view)
Those are terrible optics, people …
To be clear: We make no value judgment as to Weiss or her ability to effectively discharge the duties of this office. In fact we plan on giving her the benefit of the doubt as she takes temporary leave of her duties with the attorney general to assume these new responsibilities on an interim basis.
Also, seeing as a new solicitor will be sworn in next January, Weiss’ appointment will last only a few short months.
During that time, we suspect Weiss will adopt a caretaker mindset when it comes to this office’s caseload. At least we hope she will. Given her obvious preference for one of the two men seeking this seat in November, Weiss cannot be seen as playing favorites within the office.
And she certainly cannot (or should not) engage in the sort of overt politicking in which she has engaged in the past …
Nor can her appointment be seen as providing any sort of political advantage to McMaster – who has thus far managed to avoid entanglement in an anti-corruption investigation that appears to be winding down this year.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? Please feel free to submit your own guest column or letter to the editor via-email HERE. Got a tip for us? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE. Want to support what we’re doing? SUBSCRIBE HERE.
Banner: S.C. Governor