Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP provides this analysis of the South Carolina election as a service to our clients and friends. Members of the Firm’s Government and Public Policy Practice Group prepared the analysis and are available to answer your questions and offer assistance on issues at the state level that affect your business.
In a highly anticipated battle, State Representative Nikki Haley defeated State Senator Vincent Sheheen by a six-percent margin with 40 out of 46 counties reporting. Governor-elect Haley will become the State’s first female governor as well as the State’s first minority governor. Her national profile is part of the Republican Party’s larger push to diversify its ranks and leadership. Haley has already emerged as a potential running mate to former Alaskan Governor and current Fox News pundit Sarah Palin as well as likely former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Sheheen will return to the State Senate.
Along with the Governor, South Carolinians also elected the remainder of the statewide offices. The Republicans swept all of these statewide races. The last time South Carolina was a one-party state (when one party controlled all of the statewide offices along with both houses in the state legislature) was 1987, and the party in charge was the Democratic Party.
Republicans J. Ken Ard and Alan Wilson will replace outgoing Republicans Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry D. McMaster. Both incumbents had unsuccessfully vied for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. In the Comptroller race, Richard Eckstrom was elected. Eckstrom’s election along with Haley’s victory will give the libertarian wing of the S.C. Republican Party control of the five-member Budget and Control Board, which control much of South Carolina’s state government.
Bob Livington was elected Adjutant General, and businessman Curtis Loftis was elected Treasurer. Secretary of State Mark Hammond was reelected to his third term. Both of these candidates ran unopposed. In the closest S.C. Council of State race, Newberry College president Mick Zais narrowly defeated Democrat and ex-U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Frank Holleman and several third-party candidates to become School Superintendant. Hugh Weathers was elected as the State’s Agriculture Commissioner. These newly-elected officers will be sworn into office in January.
The Republicans expanded their already sizable majority in South Carolina’s House by picking up an additional three seats. Beginning next session, Republicans will enjoy a 76-48 seat advantage in the State House and a 26-19 seat advantage in the State Senate. Next month, a special election will be held to fill the House seat of the late Greenville County Republican Representative Bill Wylie.
The results of the legislative elections mean that South Carolina’s legislature-dominated policymaking process will remain intact preserving the considerable power of Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, Senate President Glenn McConnell, and House Speaker Bobby Harrell.
South Carolina’s one-party control also makes it likely that the expected additional Congressional seat in 2012 will favor Republicans. Because of the recent census, the 435 Congressional seats are redistributed across States, roughly according to population. South Carolina is one of several states that is anticipated to gain a seat. The Governors and State Legislatures control how district lines are redrawn. Because of this process, Republican victories in other states are likely to have a long-felt impact on the makeup of the U.S. Congress and may help preserve Republicans’ newly-minted majority.
All four proposed State Constitutional amendments were approved by South Carolina voters: (1) establish a constitutional right for citizens to hunt and fish and will permit the State to legally provide for proper wildlife management and the protection of private property rights; (2) give employees the constitutional right to vote by secret ballot when they are voting on whether to be represented by a labor union; (3) increase the amount of money state government must keep in the General Reserve Fund (its “rainy day” fund) from 3% of the previous year's revenue to 5% of the previous year's revenue; and (4) require that the Capital Reserve Fund's first priority is to replenish the State's General Reserve Fund (its “rainy day” fund) instead of serving to offset midyear budget cuts at state agencies.