Race to fill Leatherman’s Senate seat pits political newcomer against lawmaker SC | Palmetto Politics
FLORENCE – The race to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Hugh Leatherman pits a member of the State House against a businessman from Florence.
Representative Jay Jordan and political newcomer Mike Reichenbach will face each other on January 25 for the Republican nomination to occupy the seat of the Florence-based Senate that Leatherman has held for 41 years.
Leatherman, a Pee Dee devotee with immense influence over economic decisions statewide, died at home last month at the age of 90 from inoperable cancer. As the politician who controlled the state’s purse strings for two decades, the Senate Finance Chairman was the Statehouse’s most powerful lawmaker.
But that power went with him. Whoever wins their seat will enter the Senate, where leadership roles are based on seniority, at the lowest rung of the chamber’s 46-step ladder.
Jordan, who first won his House seat in a 2015 special election, said that was why the upcoming District 31 senator needed Statehouse experience.
“The next one will obviously be the 46th senator, but you are the senator who will come behind Leatherman,” he said. “I fundamentally believe this will require someone who understands the process and has connections within the Statehouse in order to best represent Florence.”
The Florence native, 41, born months before Leatherman’s first Senate victory, has quickly risen through the House ranks, where seniority is not the deciding factor.
The lawyer sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which reviews a large portion of all bills introduced. As chairman of the Election Laws subcommittee, Jordan led the 10-year post-censal chamber redistribution process to redraw the state and US House district boundaries to align with demographic changes. Last year, he became chairman of the House Ethics Committee, which oversees the campaign records of House members and candidates.
“Filling these shoes is impossible,” Jordan said, referring to Leatherman.
Representing the Pee Dee following the loss of its biggest defender “is going to take a team effort,” he continued. “Although I am a brand new senator, I have shown that I can get legislation through the process. I have worked and shown that my ‘yes’ is a’ yes’ and ‘no’ is a ‘no “. ‘ It’s starting over, but not from scratch. “
It contrasts sharply with the lack of political experience of his opponent, without attacking him directly.
Likewise, Reichenbach touts his track record as the owner of three car dealerships, claiming that “there are just not enough business owners running the show in Colombia.” And the Ohio native, who moved to Florence in 2008, touts his status as a “political outsider.”
Reichenbach, 50, was the first to announce his candidacy for the seat on November 23, days after Leatherman’s funeral. Jordan followed up with his announcement a week later.
More people were expected to join the fray for a wide-open siege for the first time in four decades. But the December 11 filing deadline ended with just two Republicans and one Democrat in the mix, ending any possibility of a February 8 runoff.
Jordan has acknowledged the difficulties of campaigning during the holidays, as it’s hard enough to get voters’ attention for a special election without several holidays being thrown in an already short period of time.
“You have to be careful and respectful of the season, but I think you can’t stop, except that we will be taking a break, obviously, for Christmas,” he said.
On the bright side, he added, “it will all be over on January 26. … January 25 will be here before you know it.”
The winner of the January 25 GOP primary will face Democrat Suzanne La Rochelle in the March 29 special election. La Rochelle, a licensed social worker, is embarking on a platform to improve mental health care statewide. The activist helped found the progressive political group Action Together – Pee Dee following the 2016 presidential election.
All three have taken up residence in the city of Florence.
The neighborhood has turned solid red since 1995, when Leatherman changed parties after the State House was taken over by the GOP.
It includes most of Florence County and part of rural Darlington County. Anyone who wins the special election would be re-elected in 2024 under new voting cards signed earlier this month, placing the district entirely within the County of Florence. Areas of the county still outside the reconfigured district will include Lake City and, perhaps ironically, Quinby, where Leatherman made his political debut on city council in 1967.
The deadline for voter registration to vote in the GOP primary is December 26. As it is a Sunday, postal forms stamped on December 27 will be accepted.
To follow Seanna Adcox on Twitter at @seannaadcox_pc.