McConnell's move introduces intrigue to state Senate

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - On Tuesday, Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell will take the oath of the lieutenant governor's office following the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

With three long-time senators already retiring, Ard's resignation has set in place a series of events that could send the most powerful man in the Senate packing.

Those events have now put McConnell in a position he never wanted to be in.

"I never wanted to be the lieutenant governor, I never ran for being lieutenant governor," McConnell said. "I put away multiple opportunities to run for Congress to pile up seniority for this area of the state and make a difference."

McConnell will not only be giving up his job as Pro Tem, he'll also be giving up his Senate seat from Charleston. It's a decision many politicos thought McConnell would not make, but McConnell says he would not usurp the state Constitution's clear line of succession.

"The constitution is clear," McConnell said. "I know what it says and anybody who reads it on its black letter law should know what it says."

A new Senate Pro Tem will also need to be elected. That, coupled with the retirement of Sen. John Land, Sen. Greg Ryberg, and Sen. Phil Leventis, means the old guard of the state Senate is coming apart.

"It's likely to make the Senate a more contentious place than it has been," USC political scientist Mark Tompkins said.

Tompkins also says the constitutional process has worked since Ard resigned and has laid out a path to replace the empty offices.

With Ard's criminal convictions and Gov. Nikki Haley's falling approval numbers, some say the state's Republican Party could be in trouble.

"It's probably had some modest impact, but most of the people who are affected are probably disposed to dislike these folks to begin with," Tompkins said.

When the Senate's work is finished Tuesday, there will be new faces in place with many people uncertain of what's next.

"I don't know what's ahead of me," McConnell said. "I don't know the state of that office. I'm not sure what I'm getting ready to walk into."

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