Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) confirmation hearing yesterday to become US Ambassador to the United Nations and expected quick Senate approval vote will ignite a rather unique South Carolina constitutional and political situation. Tangentially, the evolving Lt. Governor office quandary also has an effect upon the upcoming special congressional election in the state’s 5th District, to occur once incumbent Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) is confirmed as Office of Management & Budget director.
When Gov. Haley resigns in order to accept the UN position, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will immediately ascend to the Governorship. Under the state’s constitution, at least until right after the 2018 election, the Senate President Pro Tempore, a powerful legislative leader, automatically becomes Lt. Governor. In this situation, however, the sitting President Pro Tem does not want to be Lt. Governor, preferring to keep his Senate post.
Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), who is 85 years old and a 36-year veteran state Senator, has little interest in relinquishing his more powerful leadership position in exchange for a largely ceremonial statewide office. His problem, however, is the state Supreme Court just ruled that he has no choice. According to the Court’s directive, Leatherman, or whoever sits in the Senate Pro Tem’s office, must fill an open Lt. Governor’s office.
Until the next election, there would be no other legal way to fill the state’s vacant number two slot. A constitutional amendment has already been enacted that will change the state’s electoral system to create a ticket that includes a joint Governor and Lt. Governor election vote. But, this doesn’t become effective until after the 2018 election in completed.
Speculation is now rampant that Leatherman will resign as Pro Tem, thus allowing his short-term successor to immediately become Lt. Governor. In fact, the new Pro Tem could be sworn into the leadership position, and then immediately take the oath of office for Lt. Governor. This means the new Pro Tem may only have that position for a matter of minutes. Once the Pro Tem slot comes open, Leatherman will again run.
This quirky situation affects the impending Mulvaney special congressional election because a new publicly released Remington Research poll (1/7-8; 778 SC-5 likely special election voters) finds state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R-York) opening up a commanding lead. But, Pope isn’t even a congressional candidate. Rather, he is already an announced 2018 gubernatorial contender.
Before Gov. Haley, who is ineligible to seek a third term, was appointed to her federal position, Rep. Pope had announced that he was joining what was expected to be a large field of candidates seeking the state’s top political position. Now that soon-to-be Governor McMaster will almost assuredly be seeking a full term as the sitting incumbent, Pope’s gubernatorial plans may well be put on hold. Therefore, he would be free to join the congressional contest, which will yield a three-tiered campaign (primary, run-off, general) likely to culminate in June.
The Remington poll finds Pope leading with 25% of the sample group’s preference. State Rep. Ralph Norman and former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly, an unannounced congressional candidate, tied for second with 9%, apiece. State Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill), another unannounced contender, follows with 6% support. Education advocate and former statewide candidate Sheri Few (R), who just entered the budding congressional contest, was not included in the poll.
Once Gov. Haley resigns, which could be as early as next week, this bizarre chain of events will begin to unfold.
On the eve of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, we again hear talk about a potential political campaign involving the woman he defeated in November, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
There has been conjecture during the past couple of weeks from Democrats and Republicans both in and out of New York City that Hillary Clinton may make a political comeback in the upcoming NYC Mayoral election to be held later this year. The rumors are fueled because Ms. Clinton is not denying interest, instead simply not saying anything about the subject.
Why would she challenge incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), who supported her, especially when he commands relatively strong support among Democrats, the City’s dominant political party?
Chances are she wouldn’t. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t run.
Mayor de Blasio is under various forms of legal scrutiny, the most serious being alleged campaign violations brought against him by none other than the Common Cause organization of New York City.
At the heart of the controversy is de Blasio raising over $40 million for a non-profit organization, the Campaign for One New York, which was paralleling his official Mayoral committee apparatus. The organization’s supposed purpose was to solicit large political contributions well above the City’s very restrictive campaign finance limits. It appears most of de Blasio’s non-profit money also came from just 30 donors.
Under the NYC campaign finance regulations, individuals with current business dealings with the city cannot contribute toward city election candidates while the affected municipal contracts are in place. It’s up to the campaign to police their solicitations, to the point of checking all contributions against the New York City contractors list that the Clerk publishes for such a purpose.
If the legal pressure upon de Blasio becomes intense enough – he has already been forced to shut down the Campaign for One New York committee – it’s somewhat conceivable that he may be forced to back away from seeking re-election. Should that happen, or it becomes so clear that he’s a wounded candidate to the point of being vulnerable to another Democrat in the party primary, then the stage could actually be set for a Clinton return.
Obviously, Ms. Clinton would be formidable in the City race. Looking at her presidential campaign totals against hometown NYC figure Donald Trump, it was the former Secretary and New York Senator who scored a crushing victory within the City confines. According to the now final NYC election totals, Clinton attracted 2,164,575 votes on the Democratic, Working Families, and Women’s Equality Party ballot lines, versus Trump’s combined 494,548 on the Republican and Conservative Party rows. Percentage-wise, Ms. Clinton captured a whopping 78.4% of the New York City electorate’s votes.
Obviously, such a base would make her more than formidable in any primary race, especially when the entire 2013 Mayoral election turnout was less than half the size of Ms. Clinton’s 2016 NYC presidential vote.
Depending upon Mayor de Blasio’s impending legal situation, we could yet again be on the threshold of witnessing another “Clinton Watch”.
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