A Lowcountry state senator wants the S.C. Supreme Court to clarify how Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will be replaced as the state’s second in command.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, filed a petition Monday with the court seeking a ruling that the governor cannot appoint a lieutenant governor until after the 2018 election.
“The matter needs to be resolved,” Davis said, adding a vacancy in the governor’s office looms with Gov. Nikki Haley poised to become the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. as early as next month.
The ratification language that lawmakers approved after a 2014 statewide referendum — allowing the governor and lieutenant governor to be elected on the same ticket — omitted a 2018 starting date for the governor to appoint a new lieutenant governor if that post becomes vacant, Davis says.
That means the president pro tempore of the Senate, now Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, should rise to lieutenant governor if McMaster becomes governor, Davis says.
However, Leatherman, who chairs the Senate’s budget-writing committee and has many appointment powers as Senate leader, has said he is not interested in becoming lieutenant governor, a virtually powerless position.
In 2014, when there was a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s post, then-Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, resigned as Senate leader to avoid becoming lieutenant governor. State Sen. Yancey McGill of Williamsburg was elected president pro tempore and, then, became lieutenant governor.
Davis said he wants other state leaders — including Leatherman, House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, and Haley, R-Lexington — to join him in his request that the Supreme Court clarify the succession issue immediately.