Politics & Government

Senate, House leaders call on Corley to resign after arrest

Suspended state Rep. Chris Corley should resign his seat in the S.C. House of Representatives for one simple reason, according to the Republican majority leader in the state Senate.

“It’s not OK to beat your wife,” Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said.

Massey called for Corley’s resignation Thursday, along with other S.C. House and Senate leaders, following the Aiken Republican’s indictment this week on domestic violence charges, and his suspension from the State House.

Massey’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, also said Corley should resign. So did Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, the House majority leader.

“Should he not resign, it could go to the ethics committee,” Simrill said, “and he could be expelled.”

But those calls were not echoed by some other legislators, who are waiting for Corley’s case to go through the legal process.

State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, said that as a former prosecutor he will not prejudge the case against Corley, arguing it was not other legislators’ job to call for him to resign.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said she would leave Corley’s resignation up to him. “That’s a call Rep. Corley will have to make.”

But Cobb-Hunter said she was not surprised to hear of his arrest, saying domestic violence traverses all levels of society.

Massey said legislators must be held to a higher standard, separate from whether Corley has been legally judged guilty of the charges against him.

“I don’t see how you don’t resign,” Massey said.

Massey said he felt he had to speak out after hearing the 911 tapes of Corley’s wife and family calling the police after Corley was accused of punching his wife and threatening her with a gun in front of the couple’s young children.

State Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster, who also called for Corley’s resignation Thursday, said the case again highlights the high rates of domestic violence in South Carolina.

“Domestic violence is at the forefront in this state,” Norrell said. “What’s described on the 911 tapes is horrific. ... If I was in his shoes, I would want to step away from the spotlight.”

Lawmakers were reluctant to say an indictment should automatically led a lawmaker to resign. Last month, state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, was indicted on misuse of public office charges following a long-running public corruption probe into the Legislature. Massey said Corley’s was a special case because of the severity of the charges against him.

“High and aggravated is one step down from murder,” Massey said. “The only thing worse you can do is kill someone.”

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