Longtime state Rep. Jim Harrison, the Columbia Republican who chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee, said Thursday he will not seek re-election in November.
An attorney first elected to the House in 1989, Harrison represents District 75, which includes parts of the city of Columbia and Richland County. He is the second longest-serving Republican in the House, and one of only five Republicans who were present when the GOP took control of the House in 1994 and remain in office.
Since that year, Harrison had led the House Judiciary Committee, which considers legal, criminal and election-related legislation.
“This was a very difficult decision,” Harrison, 60, said in a statement. “Serving the people of Columbia in the House has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The time has come for someone else to serve, with new ideas and a new perspective.”
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“I will miss the House, and I will miss serving with all of the friends I have made over the years, but I am looking forward to practicing law for a few years before I retire,” said the Greenwood native, who holds degrees from The Citadel and USC.
Harrison and his wife, Susan, have two children.
He also is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served in Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti and Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia.
Harrison’s announcement caught candidates who may be interested in his seat by surprise.
However, four possible contenders quickly emerged:
• Kirkman Finlay, a Republican who was on Columbia City Council from 2006-2010 before unsuccessfully running for mayor
• Anne Sinclair, a Democrat, who retired from politics after 20 years on Columbia City Council
• Boyd Summers, chairman of the Richland County Democratic Party, who unsuccessfully challenged Harrison for the House seat in 2006
• Joe McCulloch, a Columbia attorney and Democrat who grew up in the district
All four said Thursday that they would consider running for the seat.
“I’ve said all along if it was an open seat, I’d run,” Summers said. “My wife and I are talking about it, and I’ll seriously consider it.”