S.C. House Ethics Committee chairman Kenny Bingham, a Lexington Republican who is among the Legislature’s more influential lawmakers, said Tuesday he will not seek re-election.
The 53-year-old owner of an engineering firm will finish his eighth term in the General Assembly. Bingham, who is on the budget-writing panel, was House majority leader from 2008-12.
Bingham said he decided Monday to end his more than two decades in public office, including stints on the Cayce Planning Commission and Lexington 2 board. Serving in the State House is full-time work, he said.
“You’ve got to have a respite,” he said. “I want to get my second wind.”
Bingham was unable to rise to S.C. House speaker, which he sought most recently in 2014.
“I have always said since Day One, if I’m not involved with some substantive major change along the way, I like a new challenge, new opportunities. Let somebody else come in and give it their best shot,” he said. “I’m always looking to improve. I’m always looking to move up.”
Bingham’s decision comes a week before filing opens for state legislative seats. Bingham said he did not have a successor in mind. No one has filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission yet to run for his District 89 seat, which includes Cayce, West Columbia and Springdale.
Bingham had emerged as one of the go-to players in the Lexington County delegation, often shepherding key local measures through the Legislature. He was key to winning tax breaks that enabled Amazon to build a new distribution center near Cayce in 2011, which Gov. Nikki Haley, a former Lexington lawmaker, opposed.
Bingham and Haley later agreed on other issues, including a proposal to add more transparency to the state’s ethics laws.
“Kenny Bingham has been a fighter for the people of Lexington County for more than two decades,” Haley said in a statement. “We are grateful for his friendship and service.”
In his role on the House budget-writing panel, Bingham advocated for more money for education and health care, including early intervention for autistic children that increased their chances to attend regular classes. Bingham keeps a copy of a news article about the effectiveness of the program in his office.
“When I get depressed or down, I look at it,” Bingham said Tuesday, as he started to break down while holding the article. “I think I did something good.”
Bingham also said he was proud to help get money for the Medical University of South Carolina children’s hospital, poor school districts and overhaul the state’s unemployment agency.
Bingham played a role in strengthening the GOP majority in the House.
He was finance chairman for the House GOP Caucus for six years, raising record amounts of money to elect Republicans. As majority leader, Republicans increased membership in the House from 72 to 79.
Bingham said he has no immediate plans. He plans to spend time reflecting with his wife, Jennie, and their twin daughters, both in medical school.
“I spent 20 years serving my community and serving my constituency as best I can,” Bingham said. “But, at the same time, you’ve got to stop and back up sometimes and say, ‘What’s next?’ ”
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed