Politics & Government

Harpootlian’s top priority in SC Senate? Put corrupt politicians in jail

Dick Harpootlian’s top priority as SC’s newest senator

New S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, talks about what he wants to do after being sworn into the S.C. Legislature.
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New S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, talks about what he wants to do after being sworn into the S.C. Legislature.

A long-time critic of how the S.C. Legislature operates is now one of its newest members.

In a sometimes teary-eyed ceremony Wednesday in the state Senate’s chamber, Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian was sworn in as District 20’s senator.

Harpootlian, a former prosecutor and chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, won a special election last week to represent parts of Richland and Lexington counties, filling a seat vacated when longtime Republican Sen. John Courson resigned as part of the State House corruption probe.

Usually acerbic and quick-witted, Harpootlian sounded humbled by his new role.

“I know my way around a courtroom,” he said. “But, with all due respect to the institution, I don’t know the rules yet ... I’ll need to get tutored by some folks in there.”

In a short speech, Harpootlian emotionally recalled attending the funeral of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., saying the country seems as badly divided today as it did 50 years ago.

Harpootlian said he wants to work across the political aisle to address public corruption, including requiring prison time for officials convicted of corruption.

“I’ll introduce a mandatory minimum of 5 years,” he said. “With no parole.”

Harpootlian said he knows seniority matters in the Senate. But the body’s newest member said his chair — in the back of the Senate chamber — will “make some noise” when he feels it has to.

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