Sumter Republican Rep. Murrell Smith has a giant management problem if he’s elected subsequent speaker of the S.C. House in December as anticipated.
It gained’t be a few conservative coverage right here or a white paper proposal there. It will likely be about what the House of Representatives will grow to be — whether or not it is going to higher replicate the chamber’s conventional Chamber of Commerce conservatism or embrace the blooming Republican dance with wingnuts.
There’s no debate that South Carolina has grow to be extra partisan lately because of redistricting 10 years in the past. Earlier this 12 months, House Republicans pushed by a brand new, extra gerrymandered election map that created even fewer really aggressive House districts. When a Democrat or Republican has a reasonably equal likelihood at successful a seat, each candidates typically default to mainstream appeals to voters. But when a noncompetitive district tilts to candidates of only one social gathering, extremists get extra consideration — and get extra excessive to get extra consideration. As a consequence, all candidates are pushed towards the margins, which makes the entire chamber extra partisan. Recent years have seen an exodus of moderates of each events.
Strong management on the high could possibly steer among the nuttiness that grows from overly partisan redistricting. If not, it gained’t be too lengthy earlier than South Carolina House members rubberstamp any loopy concept that comes alongside. Just have a look at what’s grow to be of legislatures in Texas and Florida.
On the day earlier than the March 16 opening of submitting for House races, Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, introduced he wouldn’t run for re-election after 24 years, together with eight as speaker. In a couple of hours, it was clear that Smith is the one actual Republican consensus candidate to be new speaker. The second and third members within the House GOP management didn’t need the job. Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope, R-York, has stated he needed to remain in his slot, whereas House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, is retiring like Lucas.
So it falls to Smith, who like Lucas, is perceived as a consensus builder — somebody who listens to Republicans and Democrats. The main distinction, insiders say, is that Smith nixes some concepts, whereas Lucas has typically let the wingnuts have their means in setting the coverage agenda.
“[Lucas] was collaborative with all members,” one seasoned Statehouse veteran stated. “He changed the tenor of the conversation. On a one-on-one basis and the way he treated his members, he listened and was much more genteel than his predecessors. He’s a genuinely nice person.”
Lucas will likely be remembered for being a chilled hand within the House after a 2014 shame during which then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, resigned after being indicted for misconduct. In the years that adopted, Lucas steered ethics reform and up to date House guidelines to open the legislative course of. He helped to create an enormous earnings tax lower this 12 months and enhance instructor pay, however didn’t ever get the massive training overhaul he dreamed of.
Smith, seen as a vanguard of old-time Republican enterprise values, is anticipated to steer extra decisively, stated one other elected House member who requested to stay nameless.
“Murrell has no problem saying ‘no’ to people,” the member stated, indicating that Smith would convey individuals collectively collaboratively like Lucas however with a extra outlined course.
Still, Smith should steadiness radical members of his Republican caucus with those that wish to return to extra mainstream values related to the pre-Donald Trump days.
“These people who are getting all of the attention are in the minority, but they are the loudest,” one of many observers stated. “I keep waiting for the vocal majority to be heard and give voice to what they think. And until that happens, we’re going to be right here with the lunatics running the asylum.”
Congratulations to Lucas for an extended, profitable House profession and good luck to Smith as he prepares to take over.
Andy Brack is writer of Charleston City Paper. Have a remark? Send to: email@example.com.