Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell weighed whether he could remain in office for several months while starting his new job as president of the College of Charleston, but he said Wednesday that he does not think he will try to work double duty.
Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, a Richland Republican who is next in line if the lieutenant governor’s office comes open, said he does not want to leave his leadership position to take a less influential job for a short period.
McConnell is expected to start at the College of Charleston by July 1. If he steps down on that date, the lieutenant governor’s office would remain vacant for seven months until a successor takes the oath in January. The part-time lieutenant governor’s post is up for election this year. Neither McConnell nor Courson are running.
McConnell said he looked at holding onto the lieutenant governor title until January. He said he would not take pay and would step aside if the lieutenant governor needed to become governor. Courson would become governor in that case.
But McConnell said he wants to follow the wishes of the College of Charleston board that hired him.“If the College of Charleston wanted me full-time next week or next month, I’m gone,” the lieutenant governor said.
College of Charleston trustees chairman Greg Padgett declined to say if he would agree to having a college president split time as lieutenant governor. Contract negotiations between McConnell and the college are ongoing.
The S.C. attorney general has issued at least three opinions since 1975 saying a college administrator is an state employee who could hold elected office.
But McConnell, a Charleston Republican, said his attorneys have questioned the legality of holding two high-level public offices.
“If I feel like it’s the wrong thing to do, I’ll get out” of the lieutenant governor’s office, McConnell said.McConnell is remaining for now as lieutenant governor, who presides over the Senate. The legislative session is scheduled to end June 5, weeks before McConnell’s expected start date at the college.
The lieutenant governor also oversees the state Office on Aging. McConnell said the 41-person aging office can operate without him if he starts full-time at the College of Charleston.
Courson has precedence if chooses to stay in the senate and not become lieutenant governor.
The lieutenant governor’s office has remained vacant for lengthy periods six times since 1879, according to state records. The last vacancy lasted for two years in the mid-1960s.
McConnell was one of the General Assembly’s most powerful lawmakers when became lieutenant governor in 2012. He was elevated from Senate president pro tempore after Ken Ard’s resignation on ethics charges.
McConnell, 66, was named president of College of Charleston, his alma mater, on Saturday after a job search that attracted more than 100 applicants. He succeeds George Benson, who is retiring at the end of June.