Runoff Results Shake Up SC Senate

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who lost Tuesday, chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Tuesday’s primary runoff results mean a big shakeup in the South Carolina Senate, with four incumbent senators losing their seats. With three senators not seeking re-election and one that lost without a runoff, eight out of 46 senators next year will be new.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, lost his runoff to former state representative Rex Rice. Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, chairman of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee, lost to William Timmons. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, lost to former House member Scott Talley. And Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield, lost to Mike Fanning.

Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee, lost his primary without a runoff. Senators Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, and Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, decided not to run again.

Lynn Teague, Vice President, Issues and Action for the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, says of the shakeup, “Oh, it will definitely change the dynamics in the Senate, which are already very difficult.”

She says it was hard to get much done in the Senate because of its rules and the increase in factions within the body. “Losing people like Larry Martin and Wes Hayes is only going to exacerbate the difficulty, because they were both people who would try to work with others, would try to not take extreme positions, would try to find common ground. And the same thing could be said for some of the others we lost. Senators Lourie and Cleary would work together on issues, and moderated the influences of the things that tend to tear our Senate apart,” she says.

Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, says he understands why some voters want to put new people in office, but in this case the state is losing decades of experience in getting things done. “I think new people do bring ideas and fresh perspective, but I think the experience component is invaluable,” he says.

“Without experience, you may pass something that will not work, but if you’re studying legislation, like I do in the Education Committee Committee, if we’re looking at an education proposal we can look back and say, ‘Gosh, we looked at this 12 years ago and we studied it and it just didn’t work, so we don’t need to go that way.’ I think experience does count,” he says.

Teague says, “Senator Martin was indispensable in getting ethics reform passed. Without him it would not have happened. Senator Hayes was a great supporter of that, and always a supporter of education.”

She says one of the big problems in the Senate has been the rule that allows one senator to block a bill. Sen. Courson says senators do plan to discuss their rules and might change them.

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