- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Suspended State House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s Democratic opponent called Tuesday for term limits for state lawmakers and changes in the way legislative ethics complaints are investigated.

But Mary Tinkler would not go as far as suggesting Harrell, a Republican, drop his bid for re-election in House District 114 in Charleston.

“It is not my position to sit here and tell him what he should be doing. He is legally able to be on that ballot on Nov. 4 and so I am here to run my campaign,” Tinkler, a Charleston real estate agent, told reporters during a news conference outside the county courthouse.

Harrell faces nine misdemeanor charges that he misused his office for personal gain and lied to law enforcement about campaign expenses.

“His trial in the courtroom is months away but his trial in the court of public opinion has now begun. The verdict will be rendered on Election Day,” Tinkler said.

She proposed that both the House and Senate ethics committees be abolished in favor of an independent panel to look into complaints against state lawmakers. She said lawmakers should be required to make full disclosure of their income and that House members should serve no more than eight years and senators no more than 12.

Tinkler promised to serve no more than six years regardless and noted her opponent has been in the House for 22 years.

“Today’s press conference only restated reforms that I have supported, and we have passed in the House several times,” Harrell said in a statement. “The fact is these reforms would be law today had they not all died in the Senate.”

Harrell’s indictment “changes the circumstances of the campaign,” Tinkler said. “I am encouraged by the voters of the district and certainly the support I have gotten from the community since this news has broken.”

But Harrell’s statement said “the people of House District 114 know me and have supported me because of my commitment to delivering positive results for the Lowcountry and our state.”

He added “my commitment remains unchanged.” Harrell was indicted Sept. 10 and later suspended himself from the speakers’ post. He has been speaker since 2005.


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