McGill move could help SC Democrats, party chairman says

ashain@thestate.comJune 6, 2014 

Sen. Yancey McGill

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com Buy Photo

Having state Sen. Yancey McGill in the lieutenant governor’s office could help show S.C. voters in November how well Democrats can handle the state’s executive jobs, the party’s state leader said Friday.

“He does the Democratic Party well if he does the job well,” S.C. Democratic Party executive director Jaime Harrison said. “That’s a greater good than any campaigning I would ask him to do.”

If he becomes lieutenant governor, Harrison said he does not expect McGill, a Williamsburg Democrat, to snipe at Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in an attempt to aid the Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, in the November elections.

“He could help voters understand what’s needed, in terms true leadership in the state,” Harrison said. “Peoples’ deeds are louder than words.”

McGill said Friday if he decides to take the job, “I don’t want to be in a position to do anything divisive. We should be about working together with everyone.”

The 61-year-old said he would make a decision about becoming lieutenant governor soon, before the Senate reconvenes on June 17. If McGill takes the job, he would be the first Democrat to hold a statewide office since 2011 and the first Democratic lieutenant governor since 1995.

McGill is the only senator so far who has expressed interest in becoming interim lieutenant governor if, as expected, Lt. Gov Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, resigns within the next two weeks. On July 1, McConnell will become president of the College of Charleston.

McGill would have to be elected Senate president pro tempore first – a job that opened Tuesday when state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, left that leadership post to avoid becoming lieutenant governor, as spelled out in the state Constitution.

The Senate president pro tempore is one of the most powerful posts at the State House. Despite being the state’s second-in-command, the lieutenant governor has little authority.

McGill has respect from both sides of the political aisle in the Republican-majority Senate. Republican Senate leaders say they would support the 25-year senator taking over as lieutenant governor.

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, the Bamberg Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor, said McGill “does not think in terms of Republican and Democrat. It’s about being a a statesman.”

There is a chance that McGill could regain his Senate seat after his interim stint as lieutenant governor.

A senator resigning this month could run in the special election to fill the post. The special general election would be held Nov. 4 – the same day as the regularly scheduled general election. The Senate then could allow the winner to wait to take the oath until January, when a new lieutenant governor assumes office, Senate Clerk Jeff Gossett said.

But McGill said he is not interested in running for his Senate seat again if he decides to become lieutenant governor.

“I don’t think that would be fair,” he said. “If I resign from the Senate, that career has ended.”

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