Ranking Series: SC’s Most Powerful Democrats
Now that we have reached the unofficial start of the 2014 Election Year, we thought it would be a good time to give our two cents on which members constitute the most powerful, influential elected officials from each major political party. Some of these folks are up for re-election, so y’all pay attention.
In this post, we take a look at the top 10 most dominant and persuasive elected Democrats in state government.
- Senator Gerald Malloy
Over the past four years, Malloy has ascended to being the guy with whom one must deal before anything moves in the SC Senate. Malloy sits on the Senate Banking and Insurance, Education, Transportation, Rules, and Judiciary Committees. Malloy has built the reputation of having special relationships with basically every segment of state government. Democratic insiders speculate that he could be on a very short list of possible 2018 gubernatorial candidates if Democrats aren’t successful this November.
- Senator Vincent Sheheen
Becoming a party’s nominee for Governor in back-to-back cycles generally should secure placement at #1 on a list like this. While Sheheen didn’t take the top spot, there is no way we could rank him any less than #2. Sheheen has a realistic opportunity to break the GOP state-wide office streak. Sheheen has all the tools needed to become the unifying leader of South Carolina Democrats.
- Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter
Cobb-Hunter is one of the most recognized, compassionate, respected, and feared members of the General Assembly. She is the true heartbeat of the Democratic Party and is respected in every sub-group of the party. Cobb-Hunter sits as the most respected Democratic voice on the House Ways and Means committee. Her relationships across the aisle make her one of the handful of Democrats who can get legislation passed through both chambers.
- Representative Todd Rutherford
This House Minority Leader has always had the reputation of getting things done; and, in many ways, has served as Counsel to the General Assembly—having represented colleagues on both sides of the aisle in legal matters. Rutherford has brought a new energy to Democrats in the SC House. His voice on issues, including education, legal injustices, medical marijuana, and infrastructure and road funding, has begun to shift public opinion on these issues.
- Representative James Smith
Many believe James Smith will be the guy to break the GOP Gubernatorial streak if Sen. Sheheen is unsuccessful in November. As a military hero, successful lawyer, and lead guitarist in his own rock band, James Smith is one of the most well-rounded and universally respected leaders in Columbia. Smith is a lead Democrat voice on the House Judiciary committee.
- Lt. Governor Yancey McGill
McGill’s ascension to the Lt. Governor position is proof of the level of respect and power he has garnered during his time in Columbia. All though McGill will be out of elected office in January 2015, he has built the foundation for a possible 2018 run for higher office. Insiders know McGill will continue to be a prominent voice within the Democratic Party and the South Carolina political structure.
- Senator Nikki Setzler
This leader of the Senate Democrats has the reputation of quietly and effectively getting things done in Columbia. Often the target of GOP challengers, Setzler has laid the blueprint for success in closely divided districts. A Sheheen Administration could mean big things for Setzler. The question still remains – will he retire or seek re-election in 2016? We are betting he suits up for another run.
- Representative Leon Stavrinakis
Although many believe Stavrinakis will soon be the frontrunner for Mayor of Charleston after his re-election to the House in November, Stavrinakis has become a true symbol of bi-partisan leadership in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Stavrinakis’ prominent voice on the House Ways and Means Committee has paved the way to more funding for Charleston projects and more respect among his Republican colleagues. Stavrinakis is one of the few legislators who is able to garner near-perfect legislative scores with the environmental community and the business community.
- Representative Mandy Powers-Norrell
After launching an unsuccessful, yet well-respected, campaign for SC Senate in 2008, Powers-Norrell has become a quiet force in the SC House of Representatives. Known for her contagious optimism, joyous personality, moderate approach, legal acumen, and overall brilliance, Powers-Norrell has garnered respect from both sides of the aisle. She will be on the short list for every competitive office in the future from Congress to Governor.
- Representatives Bakari Sellers
Sellers would probably take offense to being listed so low on our list—and he has a valid case, considering he is accustomed to being acknowledged nationally by some of the most respected, recognized publications. Sellers’ time in the SC House of Representatives is over, but he has built a political brand that will be with South Carolinians for years to come. His campaign for Lt. Governor has proven to be ground-breaking, and Sellers has once again demonstrated the talent and promise that earned him national recognition.
Representative Terry Alexander
Representative Beth Bernstein
Senator Marlon Kimpson
Representative Walt McLeod