It appears acting SC House Speaker Jay Lucas will soon have the word “acting” dropped from his title.
Two Republicans who had been vying for the Speaker position sent a letter to their colleagues on Tuesday that announced they were dropping out of the race. State Reps. Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce, and Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, are both former GOP House Majority Leaders who had been seeking the chamber’s most powerful position.
The move almost certainly clears the way for Lucas, a Hartsville Republican believed to have bipartisan support, to be elected Speaker when legislators return for a special session after Election Day.
“After reading articles that confirm a commitment to change by each of the candidates for Speaker, it is time to move forward,” Bingham and Merrill wrote. “For that reason, we are withdrawing our names from con-sideration and announcing our support for Representative Jay Lucas.”
The letter noted that Lucas has committed to seeking rule changes that will term limit the position of Speaker, allow each committee to hire its own staff (rather than each being hired by the Speaker’s Office), and establishing a committee to review all House rules and make additional reform recommendations.
Lucas has been serving as acting speaker since House Speaker Bobby Harrell suspended himself from office earlier this month. Harrell’s move came a day after a Richland County grand jury indicted him on nine counts related to misusing campaign funds and misleading state ethics officials. Harrell has repeatedly insisted he did not intentionally violate the law.
Harrell was first elected speaker in 2005. Lucas had been serving as the chamber’s second-in-command since 2011.