A Spartanburg legislator said Friday that he plans to step down from his House position next week, due to health issues.
State Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, has represented South Carolina House District 31 for the past 13 years. However, he told South Carolina Radio Network that he decided to resign at the end of the session after issues with high blood pressure and stress caused him to take a leave of absence from the House in April.
He admitted he rethought his political career after his fellow House member former State Rep. Joe Neal died suddenly in February from a heart attack. “I’ve dodged the bullet a couple of times already,” he said in a brief phone interview. He said Neal had
Mitchell made the formal announcement at the Spartanburg County administrative building on Friday afternoon. He said he had ignored his health issues for years and was finally told to take a break by House Speaker Jay Lucas and the senior House Democrat State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.
“The doctors tell you that you’re pushing, pushing, pushing and, strike two or strike three, you might not be as lucky,” he said. “And I didn’t take any of that stuff seriously.”
The 51-year-old lawmaker said he is not facing any sort of a terminal illness, but was worried his absences due to health reasons were detrimental to constituents in the west Spartanburg district.
Mitchell served as the Legislative Black Caucus chairman last session and has a reputation in the chamber for leading behind the scenes. He was a staunch critic of then-Gov. Nikki Haley’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility to accept more federal dollars in the early-2010s.
However, he ran into legal issues in 2012 and eventually pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to file state tax returns. He was sentenced to one year for each count, but the sentence was suspended to three years’ probation and the payment of $5,989.30 for all taxes owed.
He then fined $16,100 two years later and ordered to repay more than $7,400 by the House Ethics Committee. The committee found he could not account for how thousands in campaign donations had been spent after he reported the money as cash and used it without saving receipts. The committee also found he did not report any contributions or expenditures at all from 2008 until 2013.
In his private life, Mitchell is executive director of the Regenesis Community Development Corporation. The group works to redevelop former blighted or industrial areas into affordable housing.