Longtime state Sen. Phil Leventis, a Sumter Democrat, said Friday he will not run for re-election in November.
“I’m 66 – time to look for what else I can do while I still have time to do it,” said Leventis, who has been in the Senate since 1981. “My wife and I decided it. Thirty-two years is a long time.”
Leventis, a retired fighter pilot who flew combat missions over Iraq and Kuwait after volunteering for active duty during the Persian Gulf War, ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002.
Leventis said he counts among his proudest legislative moments his efforts to:
• Stop large hog farms from setting up in South Carolina, contending they would harm the environment
• Spur redevelopment efforts for his district, which spans Sumter and Lee counties
• Aid the state’s military families, including passing a law that makes military spouses eligible for jobless benefits if they leave a job to follow their spouse on assignment
“There’s no better friend to Sumter County than Phil Leventis,” said Phil Bailey, director of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “Look at his efforts to save Shaw Air Force Base through at least two BRAC (base-closing) fights.
“You’ve got the efforts with the tire plant over there now,” Bailey added, referring to Continental Tire’s October announcement that it would build a Sumter County plant, employing 1,600. “And the state’s environmental community owes a great deal of thanks to Phil Leventis for taking on the hard fights – just look at the hog farm fight.”
Leventis, a consultant who entered the Senate when Democrats controlled the body and will leave a heavily Republican body, said he is hoping to work to encourage more civility in public discourse.
“That is what we need now, more than ever,” Leventis said. “It doesn’t matter if the Republicans or Democrats are in charge. If it’s dysfunctional, if we can’t work together, it hurts all of us.”
Leventis said he has spoken with several potential candidates about running for his seat. He said it remains a winnable seat for a Democrat despite newly redrawn Senate lines. “A Democrat is going to win that seat.”