State Senate leader Hugh Leatherman has no interest in becoming lieutenant governor, he said in a statement Monday.
If Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will rise to the governor’s office.
That would leave vacant the lieutenant governor’s seat. Historically, vacancies in that post been filled by the Senate president pro tempore, a position now held by Leatherman.
But a 2014 constitutional amendment has some saying a Gov. McMaster could appoint another South Carolinian to the lieutenant governor’s post.
For now, who would replace McMaster is unclear.
Leatherman, who chairs the Senate’s budget-writing panel and as president pro tempore makes several significant appointments to state boards and commissions, said Monday he does not want to become lieutenant governor, a figurehead position that holds little power.
“I would like to make it very clear that I have no ambition for statewide office,” Leatherman said.
He added: “I owe it to the people I represent to continue my service in the Senate and to make the best possible decisions to improve the life for all the people of South Carolina. My constituents re-elected me for that purpose. I am honored to fulfill that pledge. Therefore, I will remain in the Senate."
In 2014, then-Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell resigned to become president of the College of Charleston. Then-Senate leader John Courson, R-Richland, was next in line to become lieutenant governor, but he resigned as president pro tem to avoid losing his Senate seat.
That triggered uncertainty over who would become the state’s next second-in-command until then-state Sen. Yancey McGill volunteered. Leatherman then secured enough Senate votes to became president pro tempore.
McGill was the fourth Senate president pro tempore to become lieutenant governor since 1870, according to state records.
But the office has gone vacant at least six times in its history, after lieutenant governors succeeded governors. The last vacancy happened in 1965, when Lt. Gov. Robert McNair became governor but the Senate’s president pro tempore, Edgar Brown, declined to become lieutenant governor.