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2002-2004, South Carolina Statehouse Report. Published weekly during the S.C. legislative session. South Carolina Statehouse Report is a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.

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Shift in S.C. Senate could be around the corner
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report

SEPT. 22, 2002 - Three years ago, the idea of full control in the state Senate was a dream for Republicans. Now they're slowly moving toward another fundamental shift in power - - a filibuster-proof Senate in which they can get just about anything they want legislatively. It won't happen this year, but it could be around the corner.

Republicans, who took control of the Senate just two years ago, need 28 solid votes in the state Senate to be able to cut off filibusters. Currently, they have a 25-21 majority over Democrats. That number could increase to 27 soon if two things happen:

  • Democratic Sen. Phil Leventis of Sumter becomes lieutenant governor and a Republican takes his place next year in a special election;

  • Republican Warren Arthur of Hartsville achieves an upset victory this year in the special Pee Dee election to replace the late Democratic Sen. Ed Saleeby of Hartsville.

Because Leventis has a solid history of winning elections in his Sumter and Lee county district since 1980, it might be a stretch for a Republican to take control of the seat. But it could happen with the right person.

In the adjacent Pee Dee district represented for years by Saleeby, even GOP chairman Katon Dawson says it will be tough for Republicans to pick up the seat.

"The numbers are probably all wrong for a Republican to win," he said.

But because the special election will be held at the same time as this year's general election, Arthur, a Hartsville stockbroker, could benefit by riding the coattails of Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford. Additionally because Arthur is a former Democratic House member (1976-1986) who switched parties in 1994, he may appeal to past Democratic supporters who crossover this year.

Arthur, who says he'll win by building a coalition of disaffected Democrats and a growing number of Republicans in the Pee Dee district, agrees it will be tough.

"This is nothing new to me that I have an uphill battle," said Arthur, who got 64 percent of the vote in a three-way GOP primary Tuesday. "We believe we have help coming from above in the form of God - - he's the one who's leading us to run."

While logic outlines how Arthur could win, a look at the numbers highlights the difficulty. On Tuesday, slightly more than 30 percent of the registered voters cast ballots in the district that's centered on Darlington County and includes parts of Lee and Florence counties. Of those voters, more than 9,400 voted in the Democratic primary. Less than 2,000 voted in the GOP primary. In other words, the area heavily leans Democratic.

The five-way Democratic primary forced an Oct. 1 runoff that pits two former Hartsville law partners against each other: Gerald Malloy, who got about 36 percent of the vote and Ed Saleeby Jr., who received 29 percent of the vote Tuesday. Coker College will host a runoff debate 7 p.m. Monday.

"I've got more experience with working people than the other people in this race because I am one of the working people," said Malloy, who added he has built an inclusive, broad coalition of area support. He says he's focused on providing quality public education to children.

Saleeby, who said he's honored to have the chance to continue his father's work, is pushing a smart-sounding plan to provide affordable health care to working people in small businesses by allowing them to join loosely-confederated insurance cooperatives.

Both Democratic candidates, one black, one white, agree the politics of race shouldn't enter the runoff or general election. And both candidates pledged to back the winner of the Democratic runoff wholeheartedly - - which will make Arthur's task even more difficult.

While a filibuster-proof Senate could happen soon for Republicans, don't look for it to get a jumpstart this year in Darlington County.

-- 30 --

11/3: Use your vote wisely: a lesson
10/27: SC GOP to keep control of House
10/20: Black voters may be secret weapon
10/13: Talk is cheap; action takes courage
10/6: Creating sunshine to dampen negative ads
9/29: SC Set to be world leader in news research
9/22: SC Senate shift could be around corner
9/15: Gov's race about barbs, ads, not people
9/8: Shorfall may cause look at prison alternatives
9/2: Revitalize your patriotism by participating
8/25: S.C.'s fiscal situation could be a lot worse
8/18: State wetlands policy needed
8/11: The bully vs. the whiner
8/4: Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
7/28: Two-party system could be political outcome
7/21: State budget woes loom for 2 more years
7/14: Agencies can do better job on Internet
7/5: Thank a guardsman today for service
6/28: Hodges-Sanford race will be wild ride
6/21: Sanford-Peeler race's impact on GOP
6/14: Ethics reform needed now

More done than you'd think(1.23)
More education $ also means cuts (1.22)
PSC reform to come, but when?(1.21)



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