South Carolina Senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin – one of the most powerful lawmakers at the S.C. State House – wielded his authority mercilessly late last month when he removed one of his colleagues from an influential committee that helps select the Palmetto State’s judges.
According to our sources, Rankin was upset that the lawmaker in question – state senator Tom Young of Aiken, S.C. – had been too aggressive in championing the legislative interests of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, a group that tried unsuccessfully to defeat Rankin in a heated GOP primary election this spring.
As a result of that advocacy, Rankin unceremoniously yanked Young off of the S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission (SCJMSC) and replaced him with state senator Scott Talley of Spartanburg, S.C. The move was made on September 25, 2020 – the final day of an abbreviated, delayed session of the S.C. General Assembly.
Young’s dismissal from this committee – which is responsible for determining which judges and judicial candidates stand for election before state lawmakers each year – is the latest escalation of the feud between Rankin and the chamber. That battle spilled out into the open during the contentious 2020 GOP primary for S.C. Senate District 33 (.pdf).
In that race, Rankin handily defeated GOP challenger John Gallman in a “Republican” runoff election to win an eighth term in office.
The 57-year-old trial lawyer was extremely vulnerable in his reelection bid – winning only 40.2 percent of the GOP primary vote on the first ballot. However, Gallman’s checkered past came back to bite him when he went head-to-head with Rankin on June 23. In that low-turnout election, Rankin rebounded to draw 58.4 percent of the vote and secure another four-year term.
This news outlet has been chronicling the chamber’s issues since its failed bid to take out Rankin. According to our sources, these issues are likely to result in the resignation of the organization’s president – former governor Nikki Haley’s chief of staff Ted Pitts.
So far, Pitts has been protected by chamber leader Lou Kennedy of West Columbia, S.C.-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals – but it appears Kennedy has her own issues to contend with these days.
“Lou cannot afford to keep Ted,” one legislative insider told us this week.
According to our sources, lawmakers were expecting Kennedy to fire Pitts weeks ago and have been disappointed by her ongoing refusal to do so. They have also bristled at Pitts’ quotes in mainstream media outlets taking credit for the passage of certain pieces of legislation.
Kennedy’s resolve may be weakening, though …
This news outlet is not a fan of Rankin’s – nor are we fans of the chamber’s. While these two status quo pillars clearly having competing interests in certain spheres, neither are acting in the best interests of South Carolina citizens and taxpayers.
For Rankin’s part, he is the most liberal “Republican” in the most liberal GOP-controlled legislature in America, according to a recent report. Not only that, he was the lead legislative architect of NukeGate – a notorious command economic boondoggle that set the people of the Palmetto State back by $10 billion with nothing to show for it but a pair of abandoned, incomplete nuclear reactors.
Rankin is also the leading legislative apologist for Santee Cooper, an abysmally managed government-run power provider that was at the heart of the NukeGate fiasco.
As for the chamber, it serves as cheerleader-in-chief for all manner of market-distorting subsidies (a.k.a. corporate welfare) – taxpayer-funded handouts which starve individual taxpayers and small businesses of the oxygen they need to survive. The entity has also consistently supported bloated budgets, unnecessary tax hikes and regressive tax shifts at the state level.
To borrow a line from Mercutio, “a plague o’ both your houses …”
According to our sources, the drama between Rankin and his list of enemies is only just beginning … with a “major offensive” planned for the start of the new year.
UPDATE || Pitts is on his way out at the chamber …
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