Politics & Government

SC Sen. Bryant eyes lieutenant governor's post

By Kirk Brown

Anderson Independent Mail

SC Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson
SC Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson Independent Mail

State Sen. Kevin Bryant is maneuvering to become South Carolina's next lieutenant governor.

"I would be honored to serve the people of South Carolina in such a capacity," Bryant said in a text message Friday morning. "I'm humbled to have heard from several members of the South Carolina Senate with positive support."

Bryant is a Republican from Anderson who won a fourth Senate term this year.

The lieutenant governor's seat could become vacant early next year, as President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. If she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster would become the state's governor.

Under existing rules, the Senate president pro tempore would then fill the lieutenant governor's seat. The state's lieutenant governor, a part-time position, presides over the state Senate and serves as the head of the South Carolina Office on Aging.

Sen. Hugh Leatherman, a Republican from Florence who has served as Senate president pro tempore since 2014, issued a statement earlier this week saying that he has no interest in becoming lieutenant governor.

Bryant said Friday that he has spoken to Leatherman and McMaster about the process that could result in him becoming lieutenant governor until the next statewide election in 2018. Leatherman and McMaster could not be reached for comment Friday.

According to Bryant, Leatherman would resign his leadership post when McMaster becomes governor. Bryant would then seek to replace him as president pro tempore. Once elected by senators to that position, Bryant would immediately become lieutenant governor and Leatherman would return to his leadership position.

Bryant said the lieutenant governor's job appeals to him because he would not be required to spend additional time in Columbia. Bryant also said he is familiar with the issues facing the state's elderly residents because he serves seniors every day at his family-owned pharmacy in Anderson.

He declined to discuss how becoming lieutenant governor would affect his future political aspirations.

Bryant's bid could create a series of political dominoes in Anderson County.

If Bryant becomes lieutenant governor, a special election would be held to fill his Senate seat.

State Rep. Anne Thayer, a Republican from Anderson who won a fourth term last month, said Friday that she would be interested in running for Bryant's Senate seat. Former Pendleton Mayor Carol Burdette, who narrowly lost to Bryant in the June Republican primary, said she also would consider running for the seat again.

Another special election would be needed to fill Thayer's seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives if she becomes a senator.

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