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S.C. Senate changes leadership as redistricting process continues

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 9:09 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the first time in months, both the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate were in session in Columbia on Monday as the state’s redistricting process continues.

But before the Senate’s work could get started, it underwent a major change in leadership.

Sen. Thomas Alexander, R – Oconee, was unanimously elected the new Senate president, following the resignation of former President Harvey Peeler, R – Cherokee, from the role.

This leadership shift came as the result of the death last month of longtime Senator Hugh Leatherman, R – Florence, at the age of 90.

Leatherman was remembered by his colleagues Monday, their first time meeting as a full Senate since his death. His desk was draped in black cloth and adorned with a single white flower in memoriam.

“Hugh Leatherman will be missed by many, many people in this state, but few people will miss him more than I will,” Peeler said.

After the tributes, Peeler then stepped down from his role as Senate president to fill Leatherman’s former role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the state budget and spending. Rules prohibit one person from holding both influential positions.

“You may ask me, ‘If you enjoy wearing the robe so much, why do you want to take it off?’” Peeler said, referring to the purple robe the president wears in the Senate chamber. “It’s my sincerely-held belief that I can best serve my constituents in Senate District 14 and the people of South Carolina as chairman of the Finance Committee, as opposed to president of the Senate.”

Peeler nominated Alexander of Walhalla to become the next president, and Alexander, who has been in the Senate since 1994, was elected without a challenge.

He said he looks forward to following in Peeler’s footsteps and evaluating how he can put his mark on the role, a relatively new job established in 2019.

“We’re just so, just over two years into the position of president of the Senate, so I think that will — I’ll look to see where opportunities are from that standpoint,” Alexander said.

Following the leadership changes, the Senate was presented its proposed new map in the redistricting process but did not vote on it, with senators reconvening in Columbia on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.

Earlier in the afternoon, the House passed its new map for the final time in a 100-15 vote, after the map was debated and slightly amended last Thursday. The new House map will next head to the Senate to be approved in that chamber.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Rankin said during a committee meeting Monday morning that lawmakers would not discuss or vote on their proposed new Congressional map until they return to Columbia in January for the start of their regular legislative session. That proposal was the subject of sharp criticism during a Senate Redistricting Subcommittee meeting last week, with the proposed new map leaving South Carolina with no competitive seats if unaltered, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

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