Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell announced Monday he will not seek another term, but will instead put his name forward as a candidate for president of the College of Charleston, the Charleston Post & Courier reported.
McConnell spent more than 30 years in the S.C. Senate before he stepped down to become lieutenant governor following the resignation of previous Lt. Gov. Ken Ard in 2012. As one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, McConnell made it clear at the time he did not want the largely-ceremonial lieutenant governor’s post but would follow the state constitution. But he had since publicly embraced his new role, most notably his efforts to expand the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.
He would have faced a primary challenge if he had stayed in the race. Charleston developer Pat McKinney, a GOP fundraiser with ties to Gov. Nikki Haley, had already announced he will seek the seat. Democratic State Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Denmark) is also planning a run. But McConnell had also expressed interest in the president’s post at his alma mater.
“Any effort to pursue both goals at the same time is simply not an honorable path,” McConnell said in an announcement to media outlets. “It would not be fair to good candidates who may want to seek this office. Most of all, it would not be fair to the voters of South Carolina to ask them to support me for Lt. Governor if there is even a chance I might not remain in the campaign.”
Current College of Charleston president George Benson announced in August that he will step down from the position to focus on teaching. McConnell is considered the favorite to win the post, as several prominent Lowcountry legislators have endorsed him. A new president will be chosen by the school’s board of trustees, who are appointed by the legislature.
McConnell’s political influence built over more than three decades in the state legislature, including a decade leading the senate, is expected to give him an inside track. Several Lowcountry lawmakers back his candidacy, and most school trustees are appointed by state lawmakers. Applications will be taken until Jan. 14. The search committee will bring a list of finalists to trustees on Feb. 10.
McConnell’s currently earns $46,545 in his job as lieutenant governor. Benson makes almost $380,000 in total salary through state funds and the college’s foundation.
According to The State newspaper, four College of Charleston trustees have contributed a total of $4,250 to McConnell’s campaigns.
McConnell’s departure from the lieutenant governor’s race leaves one announced Republican in the campaign — political newcomer Pat McKinney, a Charleston developer and ally of Gov. Nikki Haley.
This year’s election will be the last time a candidate for lieutenant governor runs independently on the ballot. In 2018 candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will run on a combined ballot, much like president and vice president candidates.