In the House, there are roughly 20 incubments not seeking re-election. There are also a handful of contested races (R versus R, D versus D, R versus D) and many of those races have challengers ripe to pull the upset.
Mix those ingredients together and 2009 is sure to see significant changes in state government – at least in the South Carolina House of Representatives.
While a new crop of statesmen will come to Columbia with new ideas and true motives (please, send more!), there are also going to be some MAJOR changes in leadership roles inside the body.
Most folks will be watching the returns this November, but I suggest you keep an eye on the following potential races during 2009 and beyond.
(1) Labor, Commerce, and Industry Chairmanship
Current Chairman Harry Cato has basically locked up Speaker Pro-Tempore now that Doug Smith is retiring. But the real question is how long does Chairman Cato plan to stay “Pro-Tempore”? (More on that later)
South Carolina could see history in the making with the (strong) possibility that Rep. Nikki Haley could replace Cato as Chairman of the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee. I’m not on LCI but I’m hearing that there are at least three members lining up for a bid to replace Chairman Cato. Nikki Haley, Bill Sandifer, and Wallace Scarborough have been seeking votes. Each has either primary or general opposition before we return so nothing’s guaranteed but the significance here is that no female has ever held a committee charimanship. With our state ranking last in female elected representation, this would truly be an example of breaking the glass-ceiling. Can we be so “progressive”?
(2) Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Chairmanship
(3) Education and Public Works Chairmanship.
I won’t rehash our challenges/opportunities with education in our state but I will say that this year has been one of the toughest times for the House Education Committee to move legislation through the floor. I serve on the Education Committee and I’ve lived it first hand. Challenging a sitting Chairman rarely happens but, not one to go-along just to get-along, Rep. Ted Pitts is being approached to lead this committee next year and it appears he will do so. There’s also been some talk that a Democrat may possibly mount a challenge to current Chairman Bob Walker so this may make for interesting times when we return in January.
(4) Speaker of the House 2010
There’s wide speculation that our own Speaker of the House will seek the 2010 Republican Nomination for Governor. That would mean we’d have a full-fledge Speaker’s race on our hands. The question is, will there be a race whether Speaker Harrell runs for Governor or not? That would make for an interesting family fued.
It’s no secret that Chairman Cato wants the role of Speaker (with no Pro-Tempore after it) and some say he may have locked up a bloc of votes last year during the election for a Supreme Court Justice. Would he challenge a sitting Speaker should Speaker Harrell not enter the race for Governor, though? If our Speaker does run for Governor, you can bet Cato would have the early start on replacing him. Others would obviously run….but only if there’s an open seat. Stay tuned.
(5) Majority (?) Leader
Since I’ve been elected, the House Republicans have been lead by Rep. Jim Merrill; but in 2009 we’ll be electing a new leader for the Caucus. (No, we’re not upset with Jimmy. The position of Majority Leader is term-limited.) The question is, will House Republicans be electing a Majority Leader or Minority Leader? “The Obama Factor” seems to be on the minds of not only Republicans but Democrats as well. There’s a 74-50 split presently in the body and it would take a huge overhaul to shift the balance…but stranger things have happened. Already announcing their intentions to run for Majority Leader: Mike Pitts, Kenny Bingham, and Alan Clemmons.
If you couldn’t keep up turning those pages, here’s the Cliff’s Notes: Look for 20 (or more) new members of the House; possibly three new chairman (chairperson?); a new Speaker Pro-Tempore; a new Republican Majority Leader, and the possibility of the current Speaker announcing his intentions to take a demotion and run for Governor.
Also, there is a remote chance Governor Sanford may be picked for the Vice Presidential spot on the Republican Ticket, our Lt. Governor could announce his intentions to run for almost anything (re-election, Governor, Congress, US Senate) and there could be a slew of House Members/Senators running for Congressman Gresham Barrett’s seat when he announces his intentions to run for Governor.
You’d have to have the wisdom of Solomon to know how all this will turn out but I can tell you, it will certainly be interesting to watch over the next twelve months!