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Senate GOP leader: SC Lt. Gov. succession is clear

Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, listen as Mark Keel addresses questions before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on May 27, 2008.
Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, listen as Mark Keel addresses questions before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on May 27, 2008. lsemple@thestate.com

There should be no confusion over how South Carolina’s next lieutenant governor is selected, according to the state Senate’s Republican majority leader.

Legal experts have wondered if a 2012 constitutional amendment, which changes how the lieutenant governor’s office will be filled in 2018, means a new governor can appoint his No. 2 now or if the old rules, which say the Senate’s president pro tempore takes the job, still apply.

State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, says those concerns are misplaced.

“It’s clear,” the Senate majority leader said Thursday. “We made it effective in 2018.”

Massey said he should know.

“I was there.”

Massey said he signed off on the 2018 language so the amendment would not give the power to name the lieutenant governor to the winner of the then-upcoming 2014 governor’s race.

Massey said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, had left the Senate chamber by the time the deal, adding the 2018 language, was made.

“I remember because Vincent came up to me later and said, ‘What the hell did you do?’ ” Massey said.

However, the Senate majority leader also said he “understands and agrees with” a lawsuit brought by state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, seeking a Supreme Court ruling on the succession issue.

Otherwise, either process of choosing a new lieutenant governor – elevating the Senate president pro tempore, as has happened in the past, or having the governor name a new second in command – would be open to a legal challenge, he said.

Sen. Bryant likely next lieutenant governor?

Assuming Massey’s interpretation of the succession issue is upheld and the Senate president pro tem becomes lieutenant governor, state Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, likely will become the next lieutenant governor, says state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

Bryant already has expressed an interest in taking the job, while current Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, has not.

To avoid being elevated from his powerful post as Senate leader to the largely ceremonial job of lieutenant governor, Leatherman would step aside as president pro tem, allowing the Senate to elect a new leader.

That, presumably, would be Bryant.

But could Leatherman then win enough Senate votes to return to the job of president pro tem once Bryant is elevated to lieutenant governor?

“My answer would be absolutely,” Hutto said.

Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, added, “It’s going to be a much more interesting election ... but at the end of the day I think he (Leatherman) gets the votes.”

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