SC House to elect next Speaker on April 28

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Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 11:08 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 1:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In an address that came as a surprise to some colleagues Tuesday, South Carolina Speaker of the House Jay Lucas announced he will not run for re-election this November.

The House will elect the next Speaker on April 28 and that person will take over on May 12, the last day of session.

Serving in the House’s top role for the last eight years, Lucas has set the chamber’s agenda, presiding over increased spending for road improvements, a major income tax cut very likely to happen this year, and the Confederate flag’s removal from State House grounds.

But he told House members and staff Tuesday before they headed on a two-week break after passing the next state budget and sending it to the Senate, that it was time for a new chapter in the chamber.

“When it ends, I will miss it every day. I will miss all of you in countless ways,” Lucas said.

After addressing and thanking his colleagues for about five minutes from the House floor, an emotional Lucas shared hugs and handshakes for more minutes afterward during an extended standing ovation.

Outside of his family, the Darlington County Republican called serving in this role one of his great honors.

“I can only hope that each of you believes that I have been a worthy servant of this chamber and worthy of the job you have so graciously bestowed upon me,” Lucas said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D – Richland, who was elected the same year as Lucas in 1998, called Lucas the best Speaker he has worked with in more than 20 years.

“Truly somebody that had a huge heart and led with that,” Rutherford said. “One person that wanted to put the state of South Carolina first, above party, above politics, and he did that.”

Ways and Means Committee Chair Murrell Smith, R – Sumter, said Lucas has led the House with kindness, respect, and humility.

“He’s brought us through a tumultuous time. He’s led with honor and dignity and led by building consensus among the body, and we’ll be forever indebted to him for his service to the state of South Carolina,” Smith said.

In a statement following Lucas’ announcement, Gov. Henry McMaster said he was lucky to call Lucas a friend for the more than two decades he’s served.

“Our work together has been close and constant and his leadership has produced unprecedented growth and prosperity for all the people in our great state,” said McMaster. “I look forward to continuing our partnership through the end of this session.”

The state’s GOP Chairman Drew McKissick shared the same sentiment and wished Lucas well in his retirement.

“We want to sincerely thank Speaker Lucas for his years of service and commitment to our conservative causes,” said McKissick. “Over the years, we’ve worked together on building our Party, securing the integrity of our elections, and strengthening the Republican cause across our state.”

Senate President Thomas Alexander, R – Oconee, characterized Lucas as “the consummate public servant.”

“I have always found when working with him that Speaker Lucas’ north star has always pointed him to do what is best for our state and her people,” Alexander said in a statement. “His intellect, honesty, and work ethic will be missed.”

Lucas did not say what his future plans will be once the legislative session wraps up in May.

His announcement is expected to leave the House with a leadership void that was already significant. Last week, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R – York, told The State that he, too, would not be seeking re-election after 30 years as a representative.

House members expect Smith to be the person to likely succeed Lucas as speaker.

When asked Tuesday if he would be seeking the position, Smith said he has “a very good job” now as Ways and Means chair, overseeing the budget-writing committee.

“We’ll see how that progresses,” Smith said.

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