COLUMBIA, SC — A Democrat will hold statewide office in Republican-dominated South Carolina with the Senate paving the way Tuesday for Sen. Yancey McGill to become the state's interim lieutenant governor.
While his party affiliation rankled some, McGill, a 61-year-old Kingstree real estate broker and home builder, earned respect of colleagues from both sides of the aisle over a quarter century in the State House. Senate GOP leaders and Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said they had no concerns about his temporary promotion.
McGill went from a state senator representing mainly Williamsburg and Georgetown counties to the South Carolina's No. 2 politician after several steps Wednesday.
The Senate elected McGill its president pro tempore -- a position usually reserved for the majority party. He ran unopposed despite several Republican senators and state party leaders wanting the job to stay in GOP hands.
As planned, current Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, resigned after the vote to become president at the College of Charleston. That ended his three-decade career in state elected office, including a decade leading the Senate.
McGiill then resigned his senate seat and ascended to lieutenant governor in following the state Constitution's order of succession. He will serve until January when a newly elected lieutenant governor takes the office.
McGill was sworn by Supreme Court chief justice Jean Toal with Haley and his wife, Pamela, by his side.
As lieutenant governor, McGill said he wants to help the state Office on Aging, which the post oversees, and would like to work with local governments to gain more autonomy from Columbia.
He also plans to visit senior centers in all 46 counties in the state within his first two weeks in office and plans to meet with the state department agriculture, commerce and parks recreation and tourism to discuss possible partnership opportunities.
"I spoke with Lt. Gov. McConnell, and he knows you can make a difference in seven months if you have the (work) ethic and knowledge of the state budget and resources," said McGill, a former of Kingstree mayor who took over the senate seat held by his father, Frank.
A Democrat has not held the lieutenant governors office since Nick Theodore in 1995. The last Democrat to hold a statewide seat was Superintendent of Education Jim Rex in 2011.