LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC — Newly elected state Sen.-elect Katrina Shealy said Wednesday that she will work to make concealed weapons permits optional and pass a school-choice bill two issues soon-to-be-former state Sen. Jake Knotts opposed.
Tuesdays victory was six years in the making for Shealy, who lost a bruising primary challenge to Knotts four years ago.
This year alone, the Knotts-Shealy feud prompted a lawsuit that removed more than 200 candidates from the June primaries and an attempt to disqualify Knotts for allegedly challenging an Upstate Republican operative to a duel something the state Constitution specifically prohibits.
And, while most candidates were issuing statements congratulating their opponents Wednesday, Shealy and Knotts continued their icy relationship.
Knotts did not call Shealy to officially concede the race, and Shealy has not sought him out. Im not going to hold my breath for that, she said. If I did, you will not have a Sen. Shealy.
Knotts said he was busy Wednesday, pulling up his campaign signs in rural Lexington County. He said he was not disappointed in Tuesdays results. Im happy, Knotts said, adding he can now spend more time with his family.
But, Knotts said, Its very clear (Shealy is) going to basically be a yes person for the Republican Party.
Knotts cited a vote by the state Republican Party executive committee to suspend its rules to endorse Shealy, who ran as an independent. And he pointed to Gov. Nikki Haleys support for Shealy, including money spent by The Movement Fund, a political action committee affiliated with the Republican governor. That fund spent about $125,000 on the Shealy race, including five mailers, according to a source with knowledge of the funds expenditures.
While Knotts soon will be out of the Legislature, he vowed to become the only senator not elected to office that will still be the senator for the people, a reference to his campaign slogan.
Im going to be trying my best to rebuild the Republican Party to where it used to be, where we had Republicans in it and not a bunch of Libertarians and Tea Party people, Knotts said. And Im going to do everything I can to eliminate PACs like the one that was used in this (race).
Shealy said there is no question Haleys support helped her defeat Knotts, but she added she had no control over what The Movement Fund spent. While Shealy vowed to always vote her conservative values, she said she considers herself Haleys ally instead of her enemy, as Knotts was.
My vote is not going to change because of anything any group ever does for me, Shealy says. My views and my opinions, and my concerns and issues are more in line with the governor than Sen. Knotts.
Haley welcomed Shealys victory.
The governor is thrilled that the people of Lexington County will finally be represented by someone who cares for them, first, last and always, said spokesman Rob Godfrey. Katrina will be a true conservative fighter, who will help move our state forward, and will be a great senator for the people in Lexington.
The state Senate is controlled by a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats. But Shealy unlike Knotts does not plan to be part of that coalition.
Elected as a petition candidate, Shealy said she plans to caucus with Republicans. She said she will fit in nicely with the Senates Tea Party Republicans, who are not part of the governing coalition. Instead, she will be on the back row of the Senate chamber alongside other Tea Party conservatives, including Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, and Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg.
Shealy said she promised gun-rights groups that she would work with Bryant to pass a law that would allow people to carry a gun without having a concealed weapons permit. Property owners, including bar and restaurant owners, still could prohibit concealed weapons by posting notices.
Its my conviction that our forefathers gave us the right to bear arms, and the concealed weapons permit, in my view, is someone going to the government for permission to a constitutional right, which just doesnt make sense to me, Bryant said. (Shealys support) is great news to me. From this and a lot of other issues Ive heard her position on, it sounds like we are singing out of the same hymn book.
Shealy also said she will vote to pass a bill that would give income-tax deductions to parents who send their children to private school, an issue commonly referred to as school choice.
School choice gets so close every year, Shealy said. It passes the House and then nothing ever gets through the Senate because certain senators get it bogged down.
Shealy will be the only woman in the state Senate and the first since 2008, when state Sens. Linda Short of Chester retired and Catherine Ceips of Beaufort was defeated in a primary.
It is hugely important for the state, said Karen Floyd, the former chairwoman of the S.C. Republican Party who now owns Palladian View, a marketing company. We rank last in the USA when it comes to electing women . We are underrepresented, particularly in the Republican Party.
Knotts said he was proud of his accomplishments during his 10 years in the Senate, including securing money for road-improvement projects.
Its the peoples seat. They asked for a new senator. They are going to get what they asked for, he said. I have prepared a bed for her. And I hope she dont lay in it and go to sleep. I hope she stays on top of it and that she works hard for the people of Lexington County.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.