The South Carolina Senate agreed Thursday to let gubernatorial candidates pick their running mate for lieutenant governor just not Gov. Nikki Haley.
The Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would have gubernatorial candidates and candidates for lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket, just as the president and vice president are elected now. Voters would have to approve the change in November.
But senators made sure the change would not take effect until 2018, when Haleys term as governor, if she is re-elected in 2014, will expire.
Haley immediately took to her Facebook page to criticize the Senate, asking voters to call lawmakers and pressure them to change the effective date.
Im not the one taking it personally, they are, Haley said Thursday in an interview with The State. This is a reform I pushed for all through the campaign. ... To have it go in front of the Senate, and then have them push it through, because they know its the will of the people, only to say, Oh, no, we dont want the girl to have it. We want to wait until 2018 they are the ones taking it personally.
The S.C. House already has approved letting voters decide whether candidates for governor and lieutenant governor should run as a ticket. However, the proposal now returns to the House because of two changes made by the Senate, including the 2018 effective date.
State Sen. Jake Knotts offered the amendment delaying the combined ticket until 2018, vowing to filibuster the bill to death if anyone removes it. Like Haley, Knotts is a Lexington County Republican. But the two are political foes. In 2010, Knotts called Haley an Indian-American a raghead when she was running for governor, later apologizing for what he said was a joke.
But Knotts told The State Thursday his amendment had nothing to do with Haley and, instead, was intended to take the politics out of it. With the 2018 date, Knotts said, voters wont be voting on the amendment with a particular governor in mind.
Take Haley out of the equation, Knotts said. The people need to vote based on whats good for the state of South Carolina.
Haley insisted Knotts amendment was a direct attack to make sure a restructuring effort I was pushing didnt allow me the benefit to use it and the others (in the Senate) went along with it.
Because it is a constitutional amendment, the joint resolution does not require Haleys signature.
The lieutenant governors office has been the source of controversy for nearly a decade.
Former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, then a Lexington Republican, produced several embarrassments, largely due to his speeding tickets. In one case, a Columbia police officer felt compelled to draw his gun and point it at the states second-highest elected official.
Former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, elected in 2010, resigned last month on the same day he was indicted for making personal use of campaign contributions and inventing fake contributors to make it look like his GOP campaign had grass-roots support.
Its been unfortunate what weve seen the last eight years, lets face it, said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor. Although some of the activity weve seen would not have been solved by this structural change, I do think it would allow us in this body (the Senate) to operate (with) a little bit more (stability), and I think it would allow the stability of the state to be greater. ... Its a reform whose time has come.
The position of lieutenant governor is a part-time job. Its few duties include presiding over the state Senate.
Part of the recent Ard drama was over who would replace him once he resigned. The state Constitution says the president pro tempore of the Senate automatically becomes lieutenant governor if the states No. 2 elected official resigns or is elevated to governor. But the Senate president is one of the states most powerful positions, while the lieutenant governors job is mostly a ceremonial position.
After Ard quit, then Senate president Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican and Knotts ally, became lieutenant governor. While Haley congratulated McConnell after he was sworn in, in her memoir, subsequently released, she was critical of him, saying he opposed government reforms that she wanted. And, given the ability to name her running mate in 2014, McConnell would not be on Haleys list, pundits agree.
The amendment approved by the Senate would also allow the governor to appoint the lieutenant governor in the event the office becomes vacant. However, the Senate would have to approve the new lieutenant governors appointment.
The Senate still must approve the constitutional amendment one more time, which it plans to do Tuesday.
The Senates vote Thursday was 34-1, with only state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, voting no. That is more than the two-thirds vote required to put a constitutional amendment on the voters ballot. The House already has approved the amendment, also by a two-thirds vote, minus the 2018 effective date and allowing the governor to name a new lieutenant governor.
If the House does not approve those changes, the amendment would go to a joint House-Senate conference committee to try to work out a compromise.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.