In his last speech as a senator before taking the oath of office as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, Charleston Republican Glenn McConnell invoked Confederate General Robert E. Lee in discussing his decision to resign his Senate seat and don the lieutenant governor’s ceremonial purple robe.
“Duty is the most sublime word in our language,” McConnell quoted. “Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” Watch McConnell’s speech to the Senate below (the Robert E. Lee quote starts at about 2:57):
McConnell, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who has taken heat for participating in racially-tinged Civil War reenactments, took over as lieutenant governor on Tuesday after Republican Ken Ard, resigned on Friday and pleaded guilty to several ampaign finance violations.
State Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian released a statement Tuesday morning calling McConnell “an avid champion for the Confederate flag” who fought to display the controversial banner on State House grounds. “Lt. Gov. McConnell also dresses the part, wearing a Confederate uniform and prancing into Civil War reenactments every weekend,” added Harpootlian, only slightly exaggerating.
While McConnell made much of his decision to follow the constitutionally mandated order of succession and become lieutenant governor, it remains to be seen how long he’ll actually choose to serve as duty calls in that position. McConnell has refused to rule out running in the special election for the Senate seat he held until last Friday, which would allow newly-elected Senate President Pro Tem John Courson to take over as lieutenant governor. Reports of Courson’s interest in the lieutenant governor’s office have been building ever since word of Ken Ard’s ethics violations surfaced last year, and Palmetto Public Record has reported on how McConnell could switch places with Courson in order to regain the powerful Senate President Pro Tem position.
But in order to do so, McConnell would have to win back his Senate seat before convincing senators to reinstall him as president. If McConnell does enter the special election, all that talk about his duty to follow the constitution goes out the window — which could complicate the Republican’s election hopes in a county that voted for Obama in 2008.
Additionally, Senate Democrats helped Courson beat Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler for the pro tempore position — meaning McConnell would likely need their support as well. Democratic Caucus Political Director Phil Bailey said it’s unlikely that Senate Democrats would break en masse for McConnell like they did for Courson.
But hey, Robert E. Lee didn’t always have it easy either.