Politics & Government

Richland County’s Seth Rose replaces Smith, ex-candidate for governor, in SC House

Columbia’s Seth Rose and 5-year-old son Luke on joining the SC State House

S.C Rep. Seth Rose, D-Richland, talks at his swearing-in as a member of the SC House of Representatives, Dec. 3, 2018.
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S.C Rep. Seth Rose, D-Richland, talks at his swearing-in as a member of the SC House of Representatives, Dec. 3, 2018.

Seth Rose may be new to the S.C. House, but he will have some inside help in representing Columbia’s District 72.

Rose is succeeding former state Rep. James Smith, who is leaving behind a 22-year career in the House after an unsuccessful campaign for governor this year.

One Columbia Democrat handed off the job to the other Monday, when Rose was ceremonially sworn in at the State House.

Smith said residents of the downtown Columbia district were fortunate to have the two-term Richland County Council member moving to the Legislature. But Smith still will be around to offer any support he can.

“He’ll do it as Seth Rose,” Smith said of his successor. “But I’ll be here as a resource, as somebody who knows the rules.”

Rose was unopposed in November’s election, running on his support for public education and ethics reform. Rose also hopes to use his experience in local government to bridge the divide between the state, and its cities and counties.

“I’ve seen how decisions at the state level can trickle down to the local level,” Rose said. “If mental health gets cut, more people end up getting arrested, and we have to add staff to the county jail.”

Rose, a former Richland County prosecutor, wants to see the relationship between the state and Richland County restructured.

When problems at the Richland County Recreation Commission led to that agency’s director being charged with misconduct and criminal sexual conduct, County Council was hamstrung, for example. The county pays for the agency but is powerless over its leadership, appointed by commissioners named by the county’s legislative delegation.

“County parks should be run by county government,” Rose said. “Council members are more accountable than a board member you’ve never met and who voters can’t remove.”

Rose is a relatively recent addition to the Capital Ccity. Raised in South Florida, Rose came to the University of South Carolina on a tennis scholarship, graduating in 2003. He met his wife Anna Cartin at USC, and the couple now has three young children.

The newest member of the Richland legislative delegation says he intends to use his connection to his predecessor in the S.C. House.

“(Smith) will get so tired of me, he’ll start screening my calls,” Rose said. “I’ll work to uphold the legacy in this district.”

Smith shared some advice Monday for Rose. “There’s no State House ballot box. It’s the people in your district who decide if you can serve.”

As for himself, Smith says he still is looking at his options for life after politics. “I’m fortunate to have a number of options, both in terms of employment and public service.”

While he may step back from politics for a while, “my interest in South Carolina’s future has not waned any bit,” Smith said.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.