- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell said Thursday that when he is needed full-time at the College of Charleston, he’ll leave his state office, ending speculation that he’d keep that job until voters replace him.

The college’s board of trustees selected McConnell on Saturday to succeed George Benson, who is stepping down July 1 after six years as president. McConnell had briefly considered remaining lieutenant governor after taking the college’s helm. But he decided against it, saying he committed to his alma mater when he applied for the college presidency.

“I can’t do two positions. I’m not going to be drawing two paychecks. That’s just not going to happen,” McConnell said. “When the board wants me to come down there full-time, I’m gone. It’s over.”

That means the state’s No. 2 post will likely go unfilled until January. The question is for how long.

Currently under the state constitution, the Senate president pro tem is next in line to step into any vacancy in that position. But Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, said earlier this week he would not under any circumstances relinquish his Senate seat to temporarily become lieutenant governor.

Courson noted the legislative session should end by July 1 anyway. A main duty of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the Senate, and that role won’t exist during the off-session, Courson said. He suggested McConnell might keep the title until his term ends.

But McConnell made clear Thursday he would leave even before the session ended if asked. His contract, which includes his starting date, is still in negotiations.

McConnell said he’ll try to finish up the legislative session, as long as the board needs him only in a part-time capacity during the transition process. That would allow him to be in the Legislature when it meets Tuesdays through Thursdays and be on campus Mondays and Fridays, he said.

“But if the board needs me full-time for the transition, I’m gone,” he said.

McConnell said he’s uncomfortable anyway with being both college president and lieutenant governor, since that “flirts with dual office-holding,” which the state constitution bars.

His sense of duty in following the constitution is what caused him to reluctantly step into the lieutenant governor’s job two years ago, after Ken Ard resigned and pleaded guilty to ethics violations. For McConnell, it meant giving up his position as the state’s most powerful lawmaker - as both president pro tempore and Judiciary Committee chairman, with 32 years of seniority.

McConnell announced in January he would not seek election to lieutenant governor, to instead pursue leading the College of Charleston.

This year is the last year voters will elect a lieutenant governor. Under a constitutional change approved in 2012, gubernatorial candidates will select their running mates starting in 2018. The governor would then fill any vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office through appointment.


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