McConnell: Why I will not seek election as lieutenant governor

Guest ColumnistJanuary 6, 2014 

Glenn McConnell

In January of 2012, I began a new year as president pro tempore of the South Carolina Senate — a position I had held for more than a decade. And I was preparing for the new session of the General Assembly.

But the hand of Providence forced me to make a difficult decision. As we all know, the incumbent lieutenant governor resigned on March 12 two years ago.

I had absolutely no desire to be lieutenant governor. But I had taken an oath to stand ready to replace the lieutenant governor if necessary, and I was honor-bound to fulfill that oath. So I became South Carolina’s 89th lieutenant governor.

With the Office on Aging in my office, I have been working over the past two years on a strategic plan to help our growing population of seniors and adults with disabilities live their lives with dignity and independence. That has been my focus. And when filing for public office opens on March 15 of this year, my plan always has been to offer for election.

But once again, the hand of Providence has intervened. The College of Charleston announced a new president soon would be chosen to replace President Benson when he steps down at the end of June.

The College of Charleston is my alma mater. And that historic institution that means so much to so many is at a crossroads. When the Board of Trustees announced a search for a new president, I said publicly I was interested.

The College of Charleston always has been close to my heart, and I believe I have the background and qualifications it needs at this unique moment in her history.

Therefore I had to face a decision: Should I apply for the presidency of my alma mater? And if I did, should I seek election as lieutenant governor at the same time?

Filing for public office in the 2014 elections does not begin until late March. I easily could wait for the outcome of the search process before the lieutenant governor’s campaign officially begins in April.

However, I have decided any effort to pursue both positions at the same time is simply not an honorable path.

If I am to offer my name for consideration as president of the college, it would not be fair to launch a campaign for re-election at the same time.

It would not be fair to the Senate to begin a new session not knowing whether their presiding officer is fully committed to serving a new term.

It would not be fair to good candidates who may want to seek this office but who, out of respect for me, will not enter the race until I make a final decision.

And most of all, it would not be fair to the voters to ask them to support me for lieutenant governor if there is even a chance I might not remain in the campaign.

For all those reasons, I have decided I will not be a candidate for lieutenant governor. And I will instead offer my name for consideration for the presidency of the College of Charleston.

I sincerely believe this decision is also in the best interest of the work I am now doing as lieutenant governor. This means I can now focus 100 percent on the proposals my office is drafting to deal with the growing crisis of aging in South Carolina, without being distracted by an election campaign. And I am confident the voters of South Carolina will select a qualified leader to continue that cause.

But the most compelling reason I have chosen this path is because of my love for the College of Charleston and my belief that I can be of service to her during a time of tremendous challenges as well as exciting opportunities.

If selected, I am fully committed to that task. For that reason alone, I am not seeking election as lieutenant governor to make myself available for consideration by the search committee. Within a few days, I shall be making a formal application for the presidency of the College of Charleston.

I have no idea whether or not I will be chosen. I am aware that I may end up with nothing at all. I only know that this is the honorable course for me to take. And I know as a matter of faith that the right thing to do is always the best thing to do.

Mr. McConnell, a Charleston attorney, is lieutenant governor of South Carolina; contact him at ltgovernor@scstatehouse.gov.

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