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,"
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 --