Sellers to run for SC lieutenant governor

ashain@thestate.comJune 4, 2013 

Bakari Sellers

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, will announce Thursday that he is running for lieutenant governor in 2014, sources said.

The 28-year-old attorney from Bamberg County would become a favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, has said he intends to run for re-election to the position that he assumed after Ken Ard’s resignation last year. The state Constitution required the 65-year-old McConnell, then Senate president pro tempore, to assume the post on then-Lt. Gov. Ard’s resignation in an ethics scandal.

Sellers, first elected to the General Assembly in 2006 at age 22, declined to discuss his future plans Tuesday despite State House chatter about his interest in statewide and federal office, particularly the 6th District congressional seat held by Democrat Jim Clyburn of Columbia.

However, two sources, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, said Sellers will announce Thursday that he is running for lieutenant governor.

If elected, Sellers would be the state’s fourth African-American lieutenant governor but the first in more than a century. Three African Americans held the post during Reconstruction from 1870-1876.

Sellers made headlines this winter by challenging Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Lillian Koller, head of the state Department of Social Services, to join him in trying to eat healthy using only food stamps. Haley’s suggestion that junk food should be barred from food-stamp purchases prompted Sellers’ challenge.

“He brings energy, new ideas and vitality,” said Jaime Harrison, chairman for the S.C. Democratic Party. “He looks at where South Carolina is going, not where it has been in the past.”

Sellers’ father, Cleveland, was a civil-rights leader. He was jailed after the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968 and later pardoned, becoming president of Voorhees College in Denmark.

Sellers will face an uphill struggle to break the GOP’s hold on statewide seats, including an almost two-decade hold on the lieutenant governor’s office.

S.C. GOP executive director Alex Stroman said Sellers is “out of touch with South Carolina,” citing his opposition to the state’s new voter ID law and proposals to give tax credits to parents who send their children to private school. “He’ll meet the same result as other Democrats in 2010.”

This spring, Sellers pleaded guilty in April to reckless driving after Chester County prosecutors declined to pursue a driving-under-the-influence charge against him from last fall. He paid a $445 fine.

Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said he does not think voters will be too concerned about Sellers’ driving charge, considering former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s checkered driving record and former Gov. Mark Sanford’s affair.

“Voters figure, ‘This is what they do,’ ” Huffmon said.

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