Tags: GOP | Controls | South | Carolina | Legislature

GOP Controls South Carolina Legislature

Friday, 05 January 2001 12:00 AM

After a party switch by Sen. Verne Smith, Democrat of Greer, a heavily Republican area of the state, the GOP has a 24-22 majority, giving it control of the Senate. Smith was a Democratic senator for 28 years, one of the four longest-serving members in the Senate.

In November, the GOP won operational control of the state Senate when the election results tied the chamber at 23-23, leaving Republican Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler to cast the tie-breaking vote. Republicans won the statewide popular vote for the state Senate by more than 150,000 votes.

"We've made a lot of progress," Henry McMaster, chairman of the state Republican Party, told United Press International.

"For six months before the election, the Democrats were boasting that they would take back the state House of Representatives and jockeying amongst themselves for committee chairmanships. We picked up five seats in the House to take the margin to 70 to 54, and the Democrats became very silent. Then we kept a heavily minority district in the state Senate the Democrats thought they were sure to win, and we added one, tying the Senate.

"The Democrats were crying then," McMaster said. "After today, they're all very pale."

History is, in a way, repeating itself. After the 1994 elections, the GOP gained control of the South Carolina House of Representatives – electing, for the first time since Reconstruction, the first Republican speaker of the House in any state of the old Confederacy – when several Democratic members of the House agreed to support Republican David Wilkins for the chamber's top post. These Democrats and several others all later formally joined the GOP.

Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said the switch by the 74-year-old Smith marked "a sad day for South Carolina and a sad day for our Senate."

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Harpootlian attacked Smith for allegedly having misled voters, said the Senate had hit an all-time low, and predicted a new era of divisive partisanship would result.

"The Democrats were ballyhooing the victories of their gubernatorial candidates in the South in the 1998 election," said John Morgan, a Republican demographer and consultant who has long been active in South Carolina.

"They called it evidence that they were coming back in the South and that the GOP lock had been picked. What happened yesterday in South Carolina says that, as far as that state goes, the Democrats are wrong and that the GOP tide is unstoppable."

The takeover of the South Carolina Legislature gives Republicans control of both chambers in 18 state legislatures. The Democrats control 17 state legislatures. Control is split between the parties in 14 states. Nebraska has a unicameral and officially nonpartisan Senate though the membership is, by party registration, majority Republican.

The GOP surpassed the Democrats in this critical measure of national political strength in 1994 and then slipped back over the next two elections.

The last time before 1994 the GOP controlled more state legislatures than the Democrats was 1952, during the Eisenhower presidency.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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After a party switch by Sen. Verne Smith, Democrat of Greer, a heavily Republican area of the state, the GOP has a 24-22 majority, giving it control of the Senate. Smith was a Democratic senator for 28 years, one of the four longest-serving members in the Senate. In...
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2001-00-05
Friday, 05 January 2001 12:00 AM
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