S.C. lawmakers will decide whether the daughter of Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, considered the state’s most powerful politician, wins a seat on a state college’s board of trustees.
A legislative review panel approved Karen Leatherman, the owner of a Florence fitness center, as a candidate Monday for the Francis Marion University board.
Leatherman is competing for the at-large seat held by trustee Mary Finklea, a pastor at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Florence. Finklea was elected to the board in 2014.
The General Assembly will vote on college board seats later in the spring.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, a Cherokee Republican who heads the board that reviews candidates for college boards, said it is not unusual for lawmakers’ relatives to seek board seats.
At least six relatives of lawmakers are running for college boards this year, including Peeler’s brother — former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler— who is up for re-election to Clemson University’s board.
Incumbents usually do not face competition for re-election, Peeler said. Only five of the 47 college board seats to be filled this year are contested.
Karen Leatherman’s father has deep ties with Francis Marion. The Florence Republican is a member emeritus on the Francis Marion board. A science building at the Florence school also is named after the senator as well as a professorship in public service.
Hugh Leatherman said Monday that he thought his daughter would provide a unique perspective to the board as a female business owner who graduated from the college.
Leatherman said he does not know Finklea, who did not graduate from Francis Marion, and has no issues with her work on the board. Leatherman added he did not think lawmakers would vote for his daughter because of him.
“Karen is her own person,” he said.