With chatter that GOP Gov. Nikki Haley and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster have been approached by President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team about joining his administration, some are asking: What happens if one or both leave their S.C. posts?
If only Haley leaves
If Haley gets a position in the Trump Administration — secretary of state or secretary of commerce have been speculated — McMaster would rise to the governor’s office.
That would give the Columbia Republican two years in office before he likely would run again for the governor’s office in 2018. McMaster, a former S.C. attorney general, ran for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010 but endorsed Haley after placing third in the Republican primary.
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That would leave the lieutenant governor’s office open, which would be filled by the president pro tempore of the Senate.
State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, is president pro tempore of the Senate. However, the power of the Senate leader, who controls appointments to many state government panels, along with Leatherman’s chairmanship of the Senate’s powerful budget-writing committee far outweighs the influence wielded by the state’s lieutenant governor.
In 2014, then-President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, resigned to avoid becoming lieutenant governor. Leatherman, 85, could do the same.
Senators then would elect a new president pro tempore, likely a Republican because there are 28 Republicans in the 46-member chamber. The senator elected president pro tem then would rise to lieutenant governor. Then, there would be a new election for pro tempore, allowing Leatherman to try to regain his post.
If Haley and McMaster leave
Senate President Pro Tempore Leatherman would rise to the governor’s office. If Leatherman took the post, there would be a Senate election for a new president pro tempore, who then would rise to lieutenant governor.
However, many say Leatherman holds more power now than he would as governor so he could resign to avoid becoming governor. That means senators would elect a new pro tempore to become governor and another to become lieutenant governor.