COLUMBIA — Voters will be asked in November whether the governor and lieutenant governor should run together, but the change wouldn’t take place until 2018.
The House agreed Wednesday with the Senate’s move to delay the joint ticket change by four years. The chamber voted 97-16 without debate.
Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, said she had asked House Republicans to concur with the Senate changes despite some concerns.
“We’re happy to see this important restructuring measure on the ballot so the people of the state can weigh in and move South Carolina forward,” he said.
Haley blasted senators last month for pushing the change past what could be her second term, calling it a personal affront and blatant slight to her gender as the first female governor. Soon after the Senate’s 34-1 vote, she took to Facebook to ask voters to contact their legislators. South Carolina governors are limited to two terms.
Sen. Jake Knotts had proposed waiting until 2018. Knotts, who has strained relations with Haley, said he was trying to take politics out of the question by extending the date, so that the restructuring is not about a specific person.
He likened it Wednesday to the restructuring efforts of the late, former two-term Gov. Carroll Campbell.
“It’s not against Gov. Haley,” he said.
Measures on constitutional questions do not go to the governor for approval.
Only House Democrats voted against final approval — for reasons unrelated to the date change.
Rep. David Mack of North Charleston said he believes people should be able to vote on both offices, not just for a ticket. Rep. Boyd Brown of Winnsboro said it puts the state’s rural, more Democratic areas at a disadvantage. He believes it will cause too much emphasis on geography, as gubernatorial candidates from one GOP stronghold choose a running mate from another to lock in a win.
House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham said Haley asked his caucus to concur with the Senate’s change to ensure the question would get on November’s ballot. If the House voted no, the measure would ordinarily go to a conference committee to try to work out differences. However, with just three weeks left in the regular session, the reality is that it likely would die, he said.
“The concern is that it would be blocked behind other things in the Senate,” said Bingham, R-Cayce.
He noted that if the measure doesn’t pass this year, it could not get on a general election ballot until 2014, and the first joint-ticket election couldn’t be until 2018 anyway.
Calls to put the lieutenant governor and governor on the same ticket predate Haley.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford also pushed the issue, and the House has twice before approved putting the question to voters. But the proposal previously died in the Senate.
Another amendment added in the Senate would change the constitutional lines of succession.
The governor would appoint a new lieutenant governor in the event the person dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves.
In March, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned after pleading guilty to ethics violations. Ard’s departure led to former Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell becoming lieutenant governor, a role he didn’t want but said he would follow because he promised to uphold the constitution.
McConnell noted at the time that if the governor and lieutenant governor had run as a ticket, he wouldn’t have had to abandon his powerful post.