After days of speculation, Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell said Thursday he will not seek his former state Senate seat — a seat he vacated Tuesday, when he became the state’s lieutenant governor.
McConnell’s announcement means the state Senate’s power structure will quit revolving.
State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, will remain Senate president pro tempore, the Senate’s top leadership post, vacated by McConnell. Senators who are committee chairmen will continue in those roles. And dozens of other South Carolinians, who McConnell had appointed to various state commissions and boards, will keep their seats, Courson promised Thursday.
McConnell, a Charleston Republican, said he would love to return to the state Senate as a voting member but could not do so in good conscience.
“The task of executing an orderly transition (into the office of lieutenant governor) and making certain its duties and responsibilities are properly organized requires a major effort over a considerable period of time,” said McConnell in a statement. “To regain my seat in the Senate, I would have to file for re-election literally within a few days and launch a campaign immediately. I cannot do that.”
McConnell’s move to lieutenant governor — a demotion in the power that he held as Senate president pro tempore and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — was required by the state constitution after Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned last week. Ard pleaded guilty to violating state ethics laws.
Ard’s term of office has 21/2 years remaining.
Several lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have encouraged McConnell to seek his District 41 seat, including state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston. Ford filed legislation Thursday to restore McConnell’s seniority in the Senate should he win his former seat back.
Courson said many senators wanted McConnell to return because he is viewed as a fair leader. But McConnell thought he needed to stay on as lieutenant governor.
“He’s a man of honor and integrity, and he felt it was a duty,” Courson said. “Now, he is going to do his best to be the best lieutenant governor in the history of South Carolina.”
Meanwhile, Courson, a McConnell ally, said he has no plans to remove any of the dozens of senators and others McConnell has appointed to various state commissions, boards and committees. “As people revolve off, I’ll make appointments,” Courson said. “But I have no agenda in terms of those appointments and boards.”
The possibility still remains that McConnell will run for his former Senate seat in four years.
“I know not what the future holds,” McConnell’s statement concluded. “All I can say for sure is that I have loved serving the people of Senate District 41. It is an honor that has occupied most of my adult life. ... And, beginning immediately, I will do all I can to serve the people of South Carolina well as their new” lieutenant governor.