Angling For 2014 Statewide Races Is Underway
Most of the seats look safe, but a few others are all but certain to be challenged.
Much of the political media’s attention on 2014 has focused on Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election prospects and on the two senate races that will feature Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, who will both be heavily favored to get re-elected.
But down the ticket, in the other statewide constitutional offices, chatter and positioning has already begun.
Those offices are (with current occupant—all of whom are Republicans):
- Lieutenant Governor – Glenn McConnell
- Secretary of State – Mark Hammond
- Treasurer – Curtis Loftis
- Attorney General – Alan Wilson
- Comptroller – Richard Eckstrom
- Superintendent of Education – Mick Zais
- Secretary of Agriculture – Hugh Weathers
- Adjutant General – Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston
Loftis and Wilson have been rumored to seek higher office from the time they were sworn in. But Loftis squelched such rumors when he announced last month he’ll run for re-election. Wilson has not disclosed his plans. Neither man should get much of a challenge in a primary or general election.
But insiders on both sides of the political aisle agree there are a few vulnerable seats. They spoke with Patch about 2014 races on the condition of anonymity. Those most at risk are Zais, Eckstrom and McConnell.
Zais has critics from both parties. Republicans don’t believe he’s been forceful enough in advocating for more school choice. Democrats are infuriated with Zais for his decision to refuse tens of millions of dollars in federal money and for a proposal that would grade classroom teachers.
Critics of Zais, a former President of Newberry College, told Patch that he doesn’t seem to grasp the realities of a 21st Century public school.
More troubling for Zais is a report from the Education Oversight Committee that reading proficiency among eighth-graders has not improved significantly under his tenure (subscription required).
Rumors circulate that Zais may not run again, and if he does, he could be challenged from within his own party.
The Democrat who could offer the best challenge for the seat might be State Rep. Mike Anthony of Union County. Anthony was a classroom teacher and football coach for three decades before becoming a legislator.
Eckstrom’s vulnerability stems not from his job performance—though many voters probably aren’t sure what the comptroller actually does (he’s the state’s chief accountant). Rather, it's because Eckstrom found himself in the news for reasons other than his budgeting abilities.
Eckstrom’s biggest threat would appear to be from within the Republican Party, according to insiders.
McConnell assumed the Lieutenant Governor’s office after Ken Ard resigned in scandal. McConnell left his job as Senate Pro Tem and probably lost power in the process. Several people who spoke with Patch for this article said McConnell is not happy with his diminished influence and may not even seek re-election. If he does run, expect Rep. Mia McLeod of Richland to mount a serious challenge in the general election.
A McConnell-McLeod contest would be the highlight of the downticket races in 2014.
Jaime Harrison, likely the new chair of the SCDP, has stated that he wants to make Democrats competitive across the state. 2014 will be the first test of that approach.
Democrats like their chances in a re-match of 2010 between Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The stronger Sheheen is, the more likely other Democrats on a statewide ballot would be to break through with a win.