Sen. Glenn McConnell takes a bullet for SC, accepts the useless, nothing job of being Gov Lite

As I said earlier today, the only way Glenn McConnell would give up power to be lieutenant governor would be if he felt that his personal honor as a gentleman was at stake. And it appears that that is just what has happened:

Stepping into the role is McConnell, who is giving up one of the most powerful positions in all of state government for a mostly ceremonial role whose only duties are to preside over the Senate and run the state Office on Aging.

Speaking with reporters after a closed-door meeting in his State House office, McConnell said becoming lieutenant governor is “a personal sacrifice” but his reading of the state constitution makes it clear that the Senate President Pro Tem has a duty to become lieutanant governor when the post is permanently vacated.

“After much thought, prayer and discussion, I have decided that I have a moral obligation to my oath of office and to the constitution of this state,” McConnell said in a prepared statement. “It is an obligation that compels me to do the right thing no matter how difficult it may be to me personally.”

McConnell said he expects be sworn in on Tuesday. McConnell would not say who his preference was to replace him as the leader of the Senate, and he did not rule out the possibility of running for his state Senate seat again in four years.

Wow. What a weird, back-handed way for the mighty to fall.

This is the one really significant thing to have happened in all of this. Whether Ken Ard had continued to be lieutenant governor or not was of no consequence (which is why you never caught me paying much attention to the matter one way or the other). It doesn’t matter who the Gov Lite is, unless the governor dies or leaves office suddenly. But the most powerful man in the Senate, who has done more than anyone else to set the course for the General Assembly for the last couple of decades, has just walked away from power (for now).

That’s really something.

Whatever happens next, I must say — my hat’s off to you, senator.

56 thoughts on “Sen. Glenn McConnell takes a bullet for SC, accepts the useless, nothing job of being Gov Lite

  1. Steven Davis II

    Rumors are floating around the only reason he took the Lt. Governor position is that he knows the Governor’s position will be opening up shortly. Also if he goes back to the Senate in the next election, he goes back as a Freshman Senator, that seniority is based on consecutive time served, not total time served.

  2. Brad

    Wait a second… reading back over this, I wonder: “he did not rule out the possibility of running for his state Senate seat again in four years.”

    What’s to keep him from accepting the job and letting the Senate pick a new pro tem, then resigning to let the new guy be Gov Lite, and running for his former seat THIS year?

    That would be totally aboveboard. If he’s not considering that option, then he’s really committed to following through on this.

  3. Jim Hammond

    The hang-dog look on Glenn McConnell’s face as he spoke to reporters today was not the look of a man plotting some Machiavellian comeback.
    I really believe the man is doing his duty as he sees it, but reluctantly.
    And until I see something to persuade me differently, I admire him for it.

  4. Brad

    I think you’re right, Jim. Glenn sees his honor at stake, so he’s stepping up, even though it’s the last thing he would want to do.

    When you style yourself a Southern gentleman, and you really mean it, a situation like this really puts you in a bind.

  5. Tim

    He loses seniority if he has a break in service. He would still have considerable influence given his deep roots in government, plus a powerful ‘moral’ boost for taking the high road. He is a net winner. And Steven is correct, in that there is enough whiff of scandal in the governor’s office to warrant the consideration he could well be governor before 2014.

    Finally, there is probably no one who knows as much about the rules of the senate as well as the customs and procedure, making him a fairly formidable Lt. Gov just on its face. This could change the whole notion of what Lt.Gov actually means.

  6. Steven Davis II

    “What’s to keep him from accepting the job and letting the Senate pick a new pro tem, then resigning to let the new guy be Gov Lite, and running for his former seat THIS year?”

    I think that’s almost an impossibility if what they’re saying on FitNews is correct. That one other Senator did this, winning after losing the seat and started over with his desk in the back row and taking a high number license plate. I don’t know if a President pro tem has ever been elected by a “freshman” Senator.

    They’re speculating that McConnell didn’t have enough votes to guarantee his winning the President pro tem seat back, which is why he too the Lt. Gov. job rather than risking it all to end up as a run of the mill Senator.

  7. Brad

    You seem to be supposing that he would want to be governor. I’ve never seen a sign of that. The Senate has always been the end-all and be-all for him, and no one has done more than he to keep the governor powerless.

    Of course… and I’m getting ahead of myself… perhaps Glenn becoming governor after it all catches up with Nikki would be a blessing to our state. Bear with me here… Suppose he becomes governor, and despite (or because of) having been the greatest enemy of executive power in SC, starts to think that maybe he SHOULD have the power to run the executive branch. Think about it. From being the most implacable enemy of restructuring, he could be the guy with the savvy to actually make it finally happen.

    That would REALLY be ironic… but good.

  8. Brad

    That would take a conversion experience that would rival Saul on the road to Damascus, however.

    It would be more likely that Gov. McConnell would devote himself to showing us just how a governor should behave, deferring in all things to the Legislature…

  9. Brad

    But I shouldn’t say that. Today, Sen. McConnell (which is probably what people will continue to call him) has done a fine thing, and deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  10. Karen McLeod

    My apologies to Sen. McConnell. I did not expect him to be willing to be Lt. Gov. I will respect his choices more, even tho’ I almost never agree with him. But I was backing him to stand up to the present Gov. Is there anyone in the Senate who can do that now (without shooting themselves in the foot)?

  11. `Kathryn Fenner

    I’m voting with the Soon Replacing Nikki theory–and he could really fix the governor’s office.

    Regardless, he deserves praise for stepping up and doing his duty, even if he has a long range strategy. He’s taking the risk of losing and not regaining the most powerful position in the state.

    He’s likely to be formidable wherever he is, though.

  12. bud

    Or maybe there’s a more mundane reason for McConnell’s action. He is simply tired of his role in the senate and just wants to semi-retire. Not sure I could blame him.

  13. Brad

    It’s “Ken.” Ken Ard.

    And he just got elected in the last election. How would term limits have affected this?

    Oh, wait — you’re talking about McConnell quitting.

    Well, I’m just gonna go ahead and disagree with you there. The kinds of freshman officeholders we’ve been seeing lately (say, Ken Ard) give me little reason to think they’re the sorts who would do the honorable thing in a situation such as this.

    Or maybe they would. We probably have freshmen lawmakers who think becoming Gov Lite would be a step up…

  14. Jim Hammond

    I don’t expect Glenn McConnell to be a shrinking violet when something he cares about is on the bubble. If he becomes just a bystander in Statehouse politics, I’ll be surprised, and disappointed.

  15. Rose

    There’s official power and then there’s unofficial power. I would be surprised if McConnell didn’t still have sway over many issues.

  16. Brad

    Well, I suspect that what we’re about to see is an exhibition of just what CAN be done with the limited powers of the Gov Lite, by someone who knows how…

  17. Phillip

    I cast my vote with those who think that McConnell thinks Haley may not make it through a full term.

  18. Doug Ross

    Seriously, Brad.. I swear if Charles Manson held a door for a woman, you’d start petitioning for his parole.

    Before you turn Glenn McConnell into Rhett Butler, why don’t we wait and see how this plays out… and why don’t we factor in that everything that is wrong with the state government in SC these days begins with the Harrell/Leatherman/McConnell triumvirate.

    Imagine – giving him credit for doing what he is required to do. There’s no honor in that.

  19. Brad

    Then, there are the conspiracy theories. Kenley Young just said on Twitter, with regard to Glenn’s loss, “We will pay dearly once the Hunley is fully operational.”

  20. Brad

    Yes, Doug. When a guy follows the rules, even though it means giving up what he loves, when he has the political power to avoid doing it — or at least has a good shot at it — is laudable.

    Stepping down as pro tem so that someone else gets the dubious honor of being Gov Lite would not have been illegal, to the best of my knowledge.

    But he rejected that. He did what you consider to be the right thing, even though you didn’t expect him to do so. I think you can give him credit for that without straining yourself too badly.

    Oh, and what he just did was not a Rhett Butler thing. It was an Ashley Wilkes thing. Rhett Butler was not a gentleman. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Mr. Butler accepting ANY public office. He found the darker fringes of the private sector more profitable.

    Just because you don’t believe in gentlemen doesn’t mean other people don’t. Glenn does; he’s all about anachronism, after all.

  21. `Kathryn Fenner

    I’ll take McConnell, with his long years of experience, over newbies Ard and Haley!

  22. Maria

    All very interesting…so many possibilities/speculations…
    And, BTW, so glad you clarified the Rhett Butler comparison. I thought when I read the comment that perhaps I had read the wrong novel — or worse, my memory was failing me.

  23. Scout

    I once had an email exchange with Sen. McConnell and I was impressed. He took the time to really write me back in detail and explain his points. I still didn’t agree with him, but he did make some valid points that I hadn’t thought of and that hadn’t been represented in the media at all as far as I could tell. It really was a very respectful conversation. I can believe he would do the honorable thing. Also I saw him at the funeral of an amazing dear person I knew not too long ago. The fact that he also apparently appreciated this person gave him a few more gold stars as well, in my book .

  24. Doug Ross

    I believe in gentlemen. You believe in appearances. Form over function. Words over actions. Ideas over results.

    McConnell did what he was legally bound to do. It’s like applauding a car thief for using his turn signal when speeding away.

  25. Sam Ligon

    The parallel between the article title and McConnell is quite appropriate. “Sen. Glenn McConnell takes a bullet for SC, accepts the useless, nothing job of being Gov Lite” As usual the state plays catch up with the political mainstream, the ballot should have both the governor and Lt. governor voted for in one unit. This will give McConnell more time to drum up tourist business for the Hunley museum, funded mainly by our tax dollars and I’m quite is operating at a break even.

  26. Brad

    Doug, that’s just a TERRIBLE analogy. It doesn’t work at all. McConnell isn’t doing anything illegal, or wrong. He’s doing the right thing, and he’s doing it out of a sense of honor.

    This points to one of the great problems in the way we view politics today. The either-or, binary system we have in which everyone thinks you have to choose between left or right, Democratic or Republican makes people think that they have to regard people in politics as either all good or all bad.

    But real life isn’t like that. And if we are to engage politics MEANINGFULLY, we have to acknowledge reality.

    Glenn McConnell is someone with whom I seldom agree on issues. I’ve been disagreeing with him, and disagreeing vehemently, for far longer than I’ve interacted with Nikki Haley or Mark Sanford or almost anyone else out there. But I also respect him, and acknowledge his virtues.

    You can be a modernist and dismiss McConnell’s belief in being a gentleman as a laughable anachronism. But I honor it.

  27. Ralph Hightower

    What’s Kenley Young Twitter name? That’s just funny! “We will pay dearly once the Hunley is fully operational.”

    There are duties associated with “Oaths of Office” regarding the particular office. Resigning the office would have been the cowardly thing. Accepting the duties and responsibilities of the office is the honorable thing to do; even if the person doesn’t like the consequences.

  28. Brad

    Kenley Young is a former copy editor at The State, who moved out to L.A. a year or so ago with his wife, who is a former metro editor of The State.

    When here, Kenley sang with a number of local bands. He was in a sort of post-punk band with my elder son several years back. The band, during its brief life, was referred to by the Free Times as a local “super group,” because all the members had previously been in bands that were popular on the local scene (in my son’s case, that was the Megameants).

    I only heard them play once, at the New Brookland Tavern. A lot of people from The State turned out that night, to see Kenley. Joining them was Tom Davis, then of Sanford’s staff. Tom looked out of place.

    Later, I would be at the Art Bar, where my middle daughter was celebrating her 21st birthday. There was a band playing Sinatra-style music in the next room. Kenley was the singer, so he has eclectic tastes.

    Anyway, here’s his Twitter feed.

  29. Steven Davis II

    “Doug, that’s just a TERRIBLE analogy. It doesn’t work at all. McConnell isn’t doing anything illegal, or wrong. He’s doing the right thing, and he’s doing it out of a sense of honor.”

    That or the fact that Plan A fell through.

  30. Steven Davis II

    “Later, I would be at the Art Bar, where my middle daughter was celebrating her 21st birthday.”

    The first place your daughter wanted to go was to a well known gay bar?

  31. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven–show what you know–the Art Bar does have a lot of gay patrons, but also a lot of straight ones. My gay friends laugh at the idea that it’s a gay bar.

  32. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – So am I to believe that you called them to ask after reading my last post? The last I heard it had a reputation as being a “gay bar”.

  33. `Kathryn Fenner

    Have you ever been there? I have many times, and there are plenty of straight people there.

  34. Steven Davis II

    I was there once, several years ago… “not my scene”. From what I remember it was kind of a freak show.

  35. Brad

    I was just there that once. Saw several people I knew. Far as I know, they’re straight. But I wasn’t doing an inventory.

  36. Steven Davis II

    “Well, I yield to your statistical sample of one….”

    How many times have you gone? As someone who has taken several advanced statistical courses the minimum sample size for a a valid sample is 30.

    Just because I’ve only been there once, doesn’t mean a damned thing. I hear Platinum Plus is a strip club, never been there so I guess it’s a church choir using your logic.

  37. `Kathryn Fenner

    I used to go every Tuesday night to hear Brad’s ex-son-in-law’s poetry reading events. Few obviously gay people, plenty of apparently straight ones. I also used to watch the Art Bar Players on Friday nights–mostly opposite sex couples and young men who certainly did not seem gay–rather more in the hearty mode.

  38. Silence

    @ Steven – I have been to Platinum Plus and I can assure you, it is a church choir.

    I hate using labels, but at what % of homosexuals can something be labeled a “gay bar”? Why do we even need a taxanomic classification of Columbia’s entertainment scene?

  39. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think a gay bar is widely considered to be a place that primarily caters to male homosexuals seeking similar partners. The sort of place where a man, rather than a woman, drinking alone might expect to be propositioned by a man.

    Steven–poetry slams are not frequented by obviously homosexual people–rather the contrary–but you wouldn’t know, would you?

  40. Steven Davis II

    @Kathryn – that appears to be a loaded question. Please rephrase the question. I didn’t even know they were called “slams”.

    Poetry to me must rhyme, like a nursery rhyme or Laugh-In’s Henry Gibson… not this LSD induced Jim Morrison beatnik crap.

    like a dying spleen,
    drowning in a bowl of Captain Crunch,
    and unpaid parking tickets, (insert bongo solo)
    these pretzels are making me thirsty,
    the end.”

    “F*%$ing beautiful man!!!”

  41. Silence

    What about gay resorts? Would Parliament in August count? Would other bars be “straight bars” or other resorts be “straight resorts” by default? I’m not sure that Disneyworld qualifies as a straight resort….

  42. `Kathryn Fenner

    I suspect a gay bar is self-identified–as is a gay resort. I would hope that all are welcome everywhere, but just as people of one age group tend to frequent Five Points bars, and people of another the Vista, there is overlap.

  43. `Kathryn Fenner

    I don’t think we need a taxonomic classification, and I would feel more comfortable drinking in Columbia’s “gay” bars than the student dives. However, I am not in search of, um, companionship. Should one be seeking a certain type of person, be that person gay, straight, young, old, one would be advised to fish in the most promising waters.

  44. Brad

    I didn’t realize it was different groups in the Vista and Five Points. In both cases, it’s a bunch of kids, right? Maybe a little younger in Five Points. But the Vista is just as close to campus…

  45. Silence

    @ Brad – I’m in my mid-30’s and definitely feel more comfortable mixing with the Vista crowd. Going to 5-pts is like being at the kiddie table at family holidays.

  46. `Kathryn Fenner

    College kids and near college kids almost exclusively dominate Five Points bars later at night, while the Vista has a more mixed crowd. Certain Five Points area bars do cater to an older crowd (The Publick House, Yesterday’s–note that both serve real food, for example).

    When Rust, next to Motor Supply Company, was busted for over-occupancy, Tameika Devine and Steve Benjamin were there, if I recall correctly.

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