State legislators seemed to hint who would be the next lieutenant governor during a legislative media lunch on Thursday.
With Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment to become the next United Nations ambassador, current Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will replace her in the Governor’s Office. But there’s been a question as to who will replace McMaster. The state Constitution has historically required any opening in the office to be filled by the current Senate President pro tempore. However, the current President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman has already indicated he will not give up his powerful post for a largely-ceremonial one.
During a lunch with reporters Thursday, State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, gave the potential answer. Hutto indicated that State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, has the votes to become the temporary President Pro Tem — thus clearing the way for him to become lieutenant governor. Senators pulled a similar move in 2014 when they temporarily elected then-Sen. Yancey McGill for the same reason.
Hutto said Bryant has indicated he’s willing to give up his seat to take the “number two” post. Moments later, State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, confirmed the Anderson Republican has the votes, should he want it.
“It’s going to be a much more interesting election than the first election,” said Sen. Hembree, “but at the end of the day I think he gets the vote.”
Bryant was working in his family’s pharmacy in Anderson on Thursday and was not present for the senators’ comments. He said, should the dominoes fall correctly, he’d be excited to take the job.
“I’ve thought about it, prayed about it and talked to constituents and it sounds like a great opportunity to take if that happens,” Bryant said when reached at his pharmacy Thursday.
Part of the reason Bryant said he wants the job is to continue the legacy of his family’s pharmacy by working with seniors in the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging.
“I’ll have the opportunity to maybe make some reforms, some positive changes in the Office of Aging and assist in the transition in the next two years,” said Bryant.
Another wrinkle in the case is an ongoing petition before the South Carolina Supreme Court which questions if McMaster would simply be able to choose his replacement. State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, filed the request in response to a 2014 constitutional amendment that would make the lieutenant governor an appointed position. Voters approved language in a 2012 referendum, with the understanding the change would take effect in 2018. However, language making 2018 the effective date was not included in the actual constitutional amendment. State Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined the petition seeking clarification on the law.