State House

Veteran South Carolina Democratic Senator Will Not Seek Another Term

Nikki Setzler to hang it up after 48 years in office …

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The longest-serving member of the South Carolina General Assembly has announced his decision to step down at the end of his current term – after nearly half a century in office. His decision sets up a high-profile battle for a newly drawn S.C. Senate seat – one that’s expected to feature one of his most well-known colleagues.

State senator Nikki Setzler – a Democratic trial lawyer from West Columbia, S.C. – will not run for a thirteenth term in the Senate this fall. Setzler has served in the chamber for the last 47 years, winning reelection in an increasingly red district by labeling himself a “caring conservative.”

Did he vote like a conservative? Of course not … but then again, most “Republicans” in the S.C. General Assembly don’t vote conservative. Or, if recent reports are true … even permit conservative votes to be held.

Setzler announced his decision in an opinion-editorial published in The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, the first day of the legislative session.

“I will not seek reelection in 2024 and conclude my service in the S.C. Senate at the end of this term,” Setzler wrote in the lengthy, self-congratulatory tome.

Setzler’s decision is expected to pave the way for S.C. senator Dick Harpootlian – who lives inside the boundaries of the newly drawn district – to seek the Democratic nomination for S.C. Senate District 26 (.pdf).



Harpootlian currently represents S.C. Senate District 20, a heavily gerrymandered district which was drawn over a decade ago for former S.C. Senate president John Courson. The famed defense attorney – who has gained international recognition representing convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – won this seat in a special election in November 2018 after Courson resigned amid an influence-peddling scandal. Harpootlian was subsequently reelected to a full, four-year term representing District 20 four years ago – but his district was drawn off the map during redistricting to accommodate population shifts toward the booming Palmetto Lowcountry.

Harpootlian had reportedly planned on stepping down from the legislature in 2024, but the decision to redraw Setzler’s district to incorporate his home turf – combined with Setzler’s decision to step down – has him rethinking that decision, we are told.

The State House was abuzz this week with reports of Harpootlian’s rumored candidacy, with several lobbyists saying they overheard the veteran politico answering questions about whether he would run against Setzler as follows: “Only if Nikki runs.”

Setzler – a native of Asheville, N.C. – was the Senate’s minority leader from 2013-2020, taking over the post from former senator John Land. He was forced to give up the position after the 2020 elections when his party lost three seats in the chamber.

Democrats lost another senator a year ago when staunch progressive Mia McLeod announced she was leaving the party to become an independent.

BANNER: Travis Bell Columbia SC Photographers



(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.



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jbl1a January 9, 2024 at 7:05 pm

No one, NO ONE should ever be in office that long. Even the “conservative” democrat. I always chuckle when I hear that term from him

Jackie January 10, 2024 at 11:09 am

Is being a trial lawyer a requirement to “serve” in the Legislature?

FedupinCarolina January 12, 2024 at 2:27 pm

Conservatives in this district will never get a better opportunity to turn this seat over to Republicans. I plan to donate and door-knock for Chris Smith who is running for this seat. Chris is a rock solid Conservative (as opposed to “a caring conservative”. Let’s let Harpoon keep chasing sensational headlines & interviews.


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