Politics & Government

Paul Thurmond leaving politics, for now

CHARLESTON - He was supposed to be part of a political dynasty, but instead Paul Thurmond is calling it quits.

Thurmond, the youngest son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, said Tuesday he will not seek re-election to Charleston County Council next year.

"I feel at peace with my decision," said Thurmond, 33, a Charleston attorney who represents parts of James Island, West Ashley, Folly Beach and southern Charleston County, including Kiawah and Seabrook islands.

There had been speculation Thurmond, a Republican, would seek a seat in the state Legislature or even make a bid for Congress, following his father to Capitol Hill. He was first elected to council in November 2006. It was three years after his father's death at age 100.

Thurmond cited numerous reasons for his decision to bow out, including his law firm's growing work in civil litigation, which includes land and local development disputes. He increasingly found he had to recuse himself from council votes to avoid conflicts of interest. He also has a wife and two young children, ages 2 and 4.

"I'm not on a set path. I've got to do what feels right," he said, adding that taking a break from public service might give him a new perspective.

He said he enjoyed public service but it was time for a change. "I don't want people to think I've taken this opportunity for granted."

When he was growing up in the Thurmond household, his politician-father did not pressure him to have a career in politics, stressing only that he do well in whatever he tried. "My father always made a point that he expected big things of me."

Thurmond isn't leaving office until after next year's elections, meaning he will finish the term. Filing for the seat opens in March.

Jack Bass, biographer for the elder Thurmond, said the son's departure isn't that shocking, given the pull of politics today. "He's decided that family probably comes first," Bass said.

Bass added there's still lots of opportunity for a Thurmond to have a presence in South Carolina politics. Thurmond's older brother, J. Strom Thurmond Jr., is the elected solicitor in Aiken. "They're both proven candidates," Bass said of the pair.

Thurmond said a political comeback isn't out of the question.

"I've got a lot of time. My dad lived to be 100. I'd like to make it to 95."