- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina Republican Rep. Kris Crawford resigned from his Florence seat Tuesday, a month after being elected to a fifth term, saying the commute to the state capital and his professional duties were wearing him out.

The Legislature’s only emergency room doctor told The Associated Press the 160-mile round-trip drive between his House duties in Columbia and full-time ER job in Florence has worn on him, and the ascendency of fellow Pee Dee Rep. Jay Lucas to speaker assures him his district won’t suffer.

“Running up and down the road with the General Assembly has been tough,” said Crawford, first elected in 2006. “The Pee Dee is doing better than it’s ever done historically.”

Lucas, R-Hartsville, last week became the first speaker in South Carolina’s history from rural Darlington County, and the first from the Pee Dee region since 1934. His rise means both chambers are led by Pee Dee lawmakers, also thought to be a first. In June, Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman of Florence became Senate president pro tem.

“I thought if I was going to go, this was a good time,” Crawford said. “I had no intention of going over there and serving 20 years.”

No one challenged Crawford in this year’s elections, either in the primary or general.

Crawford said he resigned from two legislative committees Monday - the State Child Fatality Advisory Committee and newly created House Legislative Oversight Committee - then decided overnight to fully resign from office. His single-sentence resignation letter to Lucas offered no explanation.

But the 45-year-old father of four daughters, ages 11 to 16, said his workload as ER director was increasing, and “it all comes to a point where you have to decide where your priorities are. My family was getting just far too little.”

According to the Election Commission, candidates to replace Crawford can file to run between noon Dec. 26 and Jan. 5, a week before the 2015 legislative session starts. The primary will be Feb. 24, and the special election will be April 14.

In November 2012, a Florence County jury found Crawford guilty of failing to file his tax returns on time from 2004 to 2007. He paid a $10,000 fine on the misdemeanor charges but received no jail time.

Crawford said then he depended on his accountant to properly file his taxes. But prosecutors argued Crawford’s a smart man who intentionally didn’t ask questions, even when problems arose.

Voters re-elected Crawford twice as he faced charges. The case had been pending since he turned himself in to authorities in April 2010.

Last week, Lucas assigned Crawford to the Judiciary Committee. He had been on Labor, Commerce and Industry, where he chaired the health insurance subcommittee. In the first two years of his tenure, Crawford was chairman of the Freshman Caucus.

Lucas was officially elected to replace Bobby Harrell during the chamber’s two-day organizational session. The former speaker pro tem had been acting speaker since Harrell was indicted on misdemeanor campaign spending violations. Harrell pleaded guilty and resigned in October.

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