Your SC politics briefing

·5 min read

Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.

It’s hot. It’s humid. There’s earthquakes, so it must be the start of July 1.

By the way, the swarm of earthquakes we’ve all been feeling — or not feeling, just discussing on Twitter — could be the longest such runs in South Carolina history, experts say. For what it’s worth, we’ve asked plenty. But seismologists “believe these low-magnitude quakes are not indicators of larger earthquakes to come.”

OK, on with the highlights of the week and what’s to come.

South Carolina lawmakers — with the motivation from Gov. Henry McMaster — are slated to return to Columbia soon to respond to the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which sends the power of abortion restrictions entirely back to the states.

If you recall, state lawmakers gave themselves the option to return in the off season to deal with abortion, putting it into the “sine die” agreement. Leaders haven’t said when they anticipate the Legislature to return but it’ll be before the November elections despite Joe Cunningham’s demand that they wait.

Hard to say as of now how far lawmakers will aim to go.

This week, a judge removed the temporary block on the state’s six-week abortion law, meaning it is in effect. Critics argue six weeks basically is an all out abortion ban because most women don’t know they’re pregnant until then.

One area worth watching is whether lawmakers try to remove exceptions, such as rape, incest and life of the mother. Total removal has not been popular in the Legislature, even among Republicans who made sure to keep them in the six-week law.

What to watch: The newly created SC House ad hoc panel chaired by Rep. John McCravy will hold its first meeting at noon July 7 and they plan to take public testimony. The Senate hasn’t indicated when they’ll start holding meetings.

Protesters who support abortion access hold signs in the South Carolina State House lobby on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. While the House was not voting on abortion issues Tuesday, protesters were motivated by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision letting states decide their own laws on abortion restrictions.
Protesters who support abortion access hold signs in the South Carolina State House lobby on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. While the House was not voting on abortion issues Tuesday, protesters were motivated by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision letting states decide their own laws on abortion restrictions.

SC runoff recap

South Carolina voters cast ballots in two statewide races this week, one that will arguably be *the* race to watch in November.

Here’s a recap:

Superintendent: Republican Ellen Weaver, who currently lacks the statutory qualification of a master’s degree, dominated the runoff race against Kathy Maness, who fell 25,000 votes short. Her victory represents a rebuke of the status quo, represented by Maness and outgoing schools chief Molly Spearman, and extends the statewide trend of hard-right conservatives ousting more moderate Republican candidates. Weaver will face Democrat Lisa Ellis in the general election.

Senate: State Rep. Krystle Matthews overcame a leaked prison call and secured the nomination in her US Senate run against Columbia’s Catherine Fleming Bruce. She’ll face Republican Sen. Tim Scott and his millions of dollars in fundraising in November. Matthews, who apologized for the language on the call, told reporters she plans to add staff to her campaign and hit the ground in all counties. She’s also still running for her House seat.

SC House: Retired Newberry business owner Joe White won House District 40 runoff over Tammy Johns, giving the Midlands district new representation for the first time since 2017. White succeeds incumbent Rick Martin, who’s been suspended from his seat.

State Rep. Roger Kirby looks like he’ll win the new Pee Dee-area district after beating colleague Rep. Cezar McKnight by an incredibly small margin — 35 votes.

County Council: First-term Richland County Councilwoman Chakisse Newton will keep her seat come November, after defeating challenger and former council member Norman Jackson — who Newton ousted from the council in 2018 — in a primary runoff for Richland County’s District 11.

FILE - School-choice advocate Ellen Weaver smiles at the Statehouse on March 7, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. Weaver, the GOP nominee who won the Republican primary for South Carolina education superintendent Tuesday, June 28, currently lacks a master’s degree, a requirement needed for position-holders passed by lawmakers in 2018. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)
FILE - School-choice advocate Ellen Weaver smiles at the Statehouse on March 7, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. Weaver, the GOP nominee who won the Republican primary for South Carolina education superintendent Tuesday, June 28, currently lacks a master’s degree, a requirement needed for position-holders passed by lawmakers in 2018. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)

Buzz Bites

An Anderson man pleaded guilty to the felony charges of obstructing official proceedings and civil disorder during the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. And another Anderson resident, Derek Gunby, will go to trial Dec. 12 for charges connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot after he rejected a prosecutor’s plea agreement offer to plead guilty to reduced charges.

The South Carolina General Assembly many of Gov. Henry McMaster’s budget vetoes, but they did agree with the biggest one, taking $25 million out of the $13.8 billion spending plan to try to help bring a super computer to Columbia.

Rep. Russell Fry said his goodbyes to the SC House this week. He’ll leave for Congress after unseating Rep. Tom Rice.

A new report into how the Lexington-Richland 5 school district has spent taxpayer money flags the potential misspending or unauthorized spending of millions of dollars in recent years.

Greenville County Council candidate Joey Russo has won the primary to unseat longtime member Joe Dill, after the SC Republican Party executive committee “determined there was no credible evidence that could have quantifiably changed the outcome of the primary, and therefore the Greenville County’s original acceptance of the protest is thrown out. No new primary election will take place. Period.”

A student at South Carolina’s Citadel military college who was charged in the Jan. 6 mob attack on the US Capitol will get to study for three weeks this summer in Estonia after all.

The Medical University of South Carolina and an associated facility have been fined nearly $120,000 for dozens of infectious waste violations, including failing to protect the public from potential exposure to germ-carrying medical garbage, as part of a state probe of Charleston area hospitals.

After months of investigation, South Carolina regulators fined a stench-prone paper mill nearly $130,000 over pollution that led to thousands of odor complaints in communities in both Carolinas near Charlotte.

New Indy paper plant. South Carolina.
New Indy paper plant. South Carolina.

Mark your calendar

July 1

New state fiscal year, budget starts

July 7

SC House panel responding to Roe v. Wade ruling meets at noon

Nov. 8

SC’s general election

Richland County residents vote early at the Richland County Administration Building on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Primary voters have multiple locations across the county to chose from.
Richland County residents vote early at the Richland County Administration Building on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Primary voters have multiple locations across the county to chose from.

Before we adjourn

Democratic nominee for governor Joe Cunningham recently made headlines when he suggested older politicians, such as President Joe Biden and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — really anyone past age 72 — should step aside for the new generation.

The comments didn’t fly too well with Gov. Henry McMaster’s circle.

But it doesn’t sound like it went over well with the third-ranking Democrat in the US House either.

“Joe needs to grow up,” Clyburn told Upstate television station WYFF 4 this week.

South Carolina Democratic nominee for governor Joe Cunningham holds a news conference to say he would veto any further restrictions on abortion if he becomes governor on Monday, June 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
South Carolina Democratic nominee for governor Joe Cunningham holds a news conference to say he would veto any further restrictions on abortion if he becomes governor on Monday, June 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

This week it was Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter), senior editor of the The State’s politics and state government team.

You can keep up with her on Twitter and send her tips on Twitter at @MaayanSchechter or by email mschechter@thestate.com. To stay on top of South Carolina politics and election news, you can chat with us on Facebook, email us tips and follow our stories at scpolitics.com.

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