The leader of Republicans in the South Carolina Senate announced Tuesday he will step down from that position.
Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said he will keep the title until the Senate GOP Caucus votes on his replacement Wednesday afternoon. He has held the post since 2005.
“I’ve been the Majority Leader for 11 years now and I think it’s time for a new caucus chairman,” he told reporters in a brief media availability before Tuesday’s session began. “There’s never a perfect time, but I think the time’s right.”
The 67-year-old said he made the decision because he is facing a reelection challenge in his home Cherokee County district and wants to see more “shared responsibility” in the Statehouse’s upper chamber. He also hoped to become the Senate’s “quality control manager” once he no longer has the responsibilities of maintaining the 28-member GOP caucus.
“I think we desperately need quality control within the Senate,” he said. “I’ve heard the term ‘dysfunctional Senate’ more times than I want to hear.”
Senate Republicans have controlled the Senate since 2000 and have gradually grown their majority since Peeler was first elected majority leader from a 6-senator edge to a 10-member advantage. However, the caucus has occasionally proven unwieldy as its members include both older moderate converted Democrats and younger, more libertarian-leaning conservatives, and practically every conservative hue in between.
The 36-year veteran of the Senate would not say if any other senators had indicated they will seek his old post, but said he would be willing the help them understand the job if they ask.
“Let the Hunger Games begin,” he joked about the race to replace him.
Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said Peeler had done a “tremendous job” the past 11 years. “This change will also help free up his time to be even more involved in the day-to-day work that goes into putting together the state budget,” Leatherman said in an emailed statement. “As vice chairman of the Finance Committee, he brings a common sense approach and a straightforward way of thinking that’s a real asset.”