McConnell: I won't leave the state in a crisis - - Columbia, South Carolina |

McConnell: I won't leave the state in a crisis

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Democratic Sen. Yancey McGill could be South Carolina's next lieutenant governor.

McGill said Thursday he will decide over the legislative break whether he's willing to leave his Senate seat of 26 years to step into the state's No. 2 position. The 61-year-old Kingstree senator says he's praying about the decision.

McGill could be elected Senate president pro tem when the Legislature returns for a special session in two weeks. He would then step up to replace Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who's resigning to take his new job as president of the College of Charleston. Voters elect the next lieutenant governor in November.

Sen. John Courson stepped down as Senate president pro tem Wednesday to ensure he could keep his Senate seat and not be forced to temporarily be lieutenant governor.

Being lieutenant governor in the Palmetto State is a mixed bag at best. Not as much power, money or potential to lay the groundwork to seek higher office including the number one job as voters might think.

That's why some highly influential elected officials have simply said no.

State House veterans know the building sitting on the corner of Senate and Pendleton Streets and named after legendary lawmaker Edgar Brown.

They might not realize in the mid-1960's the powerful democrat from Barnwell found himself under pressure to become South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor.

He declined and the office stayed vacant for two years.

Now 47 years later, Richland republican Senator John Courson has made a similar decision.

Even quitting his position as senate President Pro Tem to avoid being forced into the Lieutenant Governor's office.

Pickens Senator Larry Martin understands why. He doesn't want the slot either.

"There is very little time left for the lieutenant governor to exercise any type of official duty," Martin said. "And then you'd be done. You'd walk out on the steps into the landscape in January without the ability to continue to serve out your senate term."

And yet many others want the job quite badly.

Four republicans who will square off in debate Thursday and democratic House member from Bamberg Bakari Sellers.

"For a long period of time, individuals just have not done with that office what they should," Sellers said. "We expect to have the wherewithal, the ideas, the vision and the experience to get it done.

In this state, the lieutenant governor is politically weak.

The officeholder can preside over the senate, break the occasional tie vote and oversee the Office on Aging.

The pay is mediocre around $46,000, which ranks among the nation's bottom five salaries.

Some have said it might be best to just get rid of the office altogether.

Martin introduced a bill to do that a few years ago.

"I didn't believe that the office of lieutenant governor, having presided over the senate a lot myself over the years, I just didn't feel like that was something we need to have an outsider coming in to do for us," Martin said.

And no matter who wins when voters go to the polls in November, that man might not be able to repeat.

In 2018, governor and lieutenant governor will run as a team.

Current Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell will stay on the job until senators choose a new president pro tem but no later than June 19.

McConnell had planned to resign today to begin his transition into the presidency of the College of Charleston.

It's not clear yet whether anyone takes over as lieutenant governor after McConnell leaves.

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