South Carolina’s governors and lieutenant governors will soon run on the same ticket under a constitutional approved on Tuesday.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, about 55 percent of voters approved a measure to elect the state’s top two offices together, starting in 2018. That means Gov. Nikki Haley – who supported the measure – will still run on a solo ticket if she stands for re-election in 2014.
Approval also means the lieutenant governor will no longer also have a legislative role in presiding over the state Senate, which will elect its own chief officer.
South Carolina’s governor and lieutenant governor have very little interaction, and in recent years famously disliked one another. Former Gov. Mark Sanford pushed the joint ticket proposal for years, but it took the guilty plea and resignation of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard earlier this year for legislators to put the question on the ballot.
Just 15 months into his first term, Ard resigned earlier this year, shortly before he pleaded guilty to ethics violations. The former Florence County councilman, who had already paid a $48,000 civil ethics fine for using money from his 2010 campaign to pay for personal items, was sentenced to five years of probation and 300 hours of public service.
If the changes had already been in place when Ard resigned shortly before pleading guilty to ethics violations, Haley would’ve chosen his replacement. And former Sen. Glenn McConnell would still be the state’s most powerful lawmaker instead of ascending to the lieutenant governor position as required.
The 64-year-old Charleston Republican, first elected to the Senate in 1980, reluctantly assumed Ard’s post in March, stunning political observers who expected him to resign as president pro tem long enough for someone else to become lieutenant governor.
But McConnell said he could not contort the state constitution’s designated lines of succession. He noted then, however, he didn’t have to be in that position.
Within weeks, the Senate approved putting the joint-ticket question to voters – a measure that had passed the House several times – but only after pushing the start date to 2018. The move ensured that Haley – whose relationship with legislators has been just as contentious as Sanford’s – couldn’t benefit during her potential run for a second and final term.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP