Your SC politics briefing

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

First in the South? How about first in the nation?

Democratic Party officials announced Thursday they were seeking to shake up the party’s presidential primary order by making South Carolina the first primary state in 2024.

Rather than kicking off the next presidential primary season with Iowa, as the party has done for years, it wants to start with the Palmetto State on Feb. 5, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire (Feb. 12), Georgia (Feb. 19) and Michigan (Feb. 26), the Washington Post and other national outlets reported.

The move would reward South Carolina, which is credited with saving President Joe Biden’s flailing candidacy two years ago, and ensure a more diverse group of voters set the tone for the race.

“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden wrote in a letter to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson celebrated the proposal, saying the change would transform the presidential nomination process and ensure Biden leaves a lasting impact on the country.

Republicans are not expected to adopt the Democratic Party’s proposed primary order and will stick with the usual early-state order of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden talks to Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 29, 2020 after winning the South Carolina primary. President Biden has frequently referenced the critical role South Carolina played in his nomination. He points to his decades-long relationship with the state whose Black voters handed him a major win at a desperate time for his Democratic campaign. But, in recent interviews with The Associated Press, some Black voters in South Carolina who supported Biden reluctantly — or not at all — say they’re unimpressed and even dispirited. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden talks to Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 29, 2020 after winning the South Carolina primary. President Biden has frequently referenced the critical role South Carolina played in his nomination. He points to his decades-long relationship with the state whose Black voters handed him a major win at a desperate time for his Democratic campaign. But, in recent interviews with The Associated Press, some Black voters in South Carolina who supported Biden reluctantly — or not at all — say they’re unimpressed and even dispirited. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

DEPARTMENT OF ED PROPOSES TEACHER PAY RAISES

Agency budget requests are out and the Department of Education is again seeking pay raises for teachers.

Outgoing state Superintendent Molly Spearman asked lawmakers to spend $75 million more on state aid to classrooms, which would amount to a roughly 2% increase in teacher pay if applied entirely to educator salaries.

Spearman, who submitted the agency’s budget request before updated revenue estimates were available, said she hopes the General Assembly spends more than her agency requested.

“I’m going to guess and hope (the General Assembly) will be able to do more than that ($75 million), because it’s sounding as though 2023 is going to be a strong revenue year for South Carolina,” she said.

The potential pay bump would come as the state grapples with a record number of teacher vacancies that advocates blame, at least partially, on poor pay and working conditions.

Patrick Kelly, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association, said a 2% raise for teachers wouldn’t move the needle when it comes to reversing the state’s teacher shortage.

“It’s going to take a drastic shock to the system to break the cycle of educator turnover that we’re experiencing in this state and 2% is simply not going to get it done,” Kelly said.

In addition to raising teacher salaries, state education officials also want to hike bus driver pay to $13 an hour, a more than 40% increase they hope will alleviate the shortage of drivers.

“We’ve got brand new buses sitting in parking lots because we can’t find people to drive buses,“ Spearman said.

Students arrive at Homewood Elementary via bus on Tuesday. In-person classes resumed today in Horry County Schools. While many teachers, parents and students expressed excitement at being back, some are concerned the the latest spike of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina and what that might mean for the 2021-2022 school year. Aug. 11, 2021.
Students arrive at Homewood Elementary via bus on Tuesday. In-person classes resumed today in Horry County Schools. While many teachers, parents and students expressed excitement at being back, some are concerned the the latest spike of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina and what that might mean for the 2021-2022 school year. Aug. 11, 2021.

NIKKI HALEY STOPS BY CLEMSON

Former Gov. Nikki Haley, who previously said she would not seek the presidency if Donald Trump was in the race, appears to have softened that stance. During a stop this week at her alma mater, the former U.N. ambassador under Trump said a run for the White House could be in the cards.

“We are taking the holidays to kind of look at what the situation is,” Haley said during a event at Clemson University sponsored by Turning Point USA. “If we decide to get into it, we’ll put 1,000% in, and we’ll finish it.”

The former South Carolina governor then repeated a line she used at last week’s Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas to tout her undefeated electoral record.

“I’ve never lost an election, and I’m not going to start now,” she said.

Haley also commented on Republicans’ poor showing in the midterm elections, blaming the failure to gain a larger House majority on Democrats’ superior fundraising and united messaging.

“The problem wasn’t that we lost because of one person,” she said. “The problem is also not the fact that we had bad candidates. That was not the case.”

Republicans, Haley said, need to embrace early voting.

“We want the most people that support our candidates to vote,” she said. “If they vote two weeks before, if they vote absentee, if they vote on Election Day, that’s a win for us.”

Read more: Haley weighs-in on the Clemson quarterback situation

Former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during an event sponsored by Turning Point USA at Clemson University on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during an event sponsored by Turning Point USA at Clemson University on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

BUZZ BITES

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify same-sex and interracial marriages.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was among a group of GOP senators who warned they would hold up the National Defense Authorization Act unless there was a vote on an amendment to stop the Department of Defense from requiring military personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed onto a letter with 20 other Republican governors saying the vaccine mandate threatens military readiness.

A lawsuit over a $1.5 million budget earmark awarded to an Upstate religious education nonprofit will proceed and public dollars won’t be transferred to the organization unless a court orders it.

The trial over South Carolina’s new congressional map wrapped this week, leaving its fate in the hands of a three-judge panel who must now decide whether the map discriminates against Black voters.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a Pickens County resident, was ordered by the state Supreme Court to appear in front of a Georgia grand jury investigating efforts to overturn that state’s 2020 election results.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a four-year prison sentence for an Anderson man they say played a “key role” in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Gov. Henry McMaster tapped Bill and Linda Stern to lead the Inauguration Committee for a third time.

York County and a company created by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper have tentatively agreed to settle a legal dispute over the failed headquarters project in South Carolina, lawyers for York County said Wednesday.

Outgoing House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was elected as assistant Democratic leader in the next Congress.

The Department of Social Services wants $8.7 million to start replacement of its SNAP benefits system.

El entonces jefe de despacho de la Casa Blanca Mark Meadows en Washington el 26 de octubre del 2020. (Foto AP/Patrick Semansky)
El entonces jefe de despacho de la Casa Blanca Mark Meadows en Washington el 26 de octubre del 2020. (Foto AP/Patrick Semansky)

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Dec. 6 and 7

SC House reorganization session

Dec. 7

Second day of Senate legislative prefile

Dec. 8

First day of House legislative prefile

Dec. 15

Second day of House legislative prefile

Jan. 10

First day of 2023 legislative session

Jan. 11

Inauguration Day

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster waves to the crowd during his inauguration ceremony at the South Carolina Statehouse Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. McMaster defeated Democratic state Rep. James Smith in the Nov. 6 election.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster waves to the crowd during his inauguration ceremony at the South Carolina Statehouse Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. McMaster defeated Democratic state Rep. James Smith in the Nov. 6 election.

BEFORE WE ADJOURN

South Carolina’s new House members were in Columbia this week for orientation, which among other things, involved finding their State House garage parking spots. On Tuesday, the incoming House class will convene for its organizational session where members will receive committee assignments, select committee chairs and choose seats.

This coming year’s freshman class stands out for its size. With 27 new members, the House will have its largest freshman class since 1996, when 32 new members were elected.

Speaker Murrell Smith’s office provided a breakdown of freshman class sizes since 2000:

2000: 20 members

2002: 11 members

2004: 16 members

2006: 21 members

2008: 18 members

2010: 23 members

2012: 19 members

2014: 13 members

2016: 18 members

2018: 16 members

2020: 19 members

2022: 27 members

Scenes from the South Carolina House of Representatives chamber on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)
Scenes from the South Carolina House of Representatives chamber on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

Who pulled together this week’s newsletter?

This week it was reporter Zak Koeske, a member of The State’s government and politics team. Keep up with him on Twitter @ZakKoeske or send him story tips at zkoeske@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.