It was a year of firsts.
Now, as 2011 unfolds, South Carolinians will learn what difference those firsts will make. Or do they matter at all, when there is no money?
First woman. State Rep. Nikki Haley, R-Lexington, in November was elected South Carolina’s first woman and first nonwhite governor ever, a post she will assume next month. Haley – a protégé of controversial outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford – immediately will face deficits of $264 million in state agencies that report to the governor, including Medicaid and prison spending. Then, she must work with legislators to mold a plan to address a projected shortfall of an additional $800 million for the state’s budget year that begins July 1.
Key question: Can Haley – who ran for office saying that being Republican wasn’t enough, South Carolina needed more conservatives – get along with the more pragmatic GOP-controlled Legislature to accomplish more than Sanford did in eight years? Helping attract more jobs to the state would help.
First black Republican. State Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, was elected to Congress, representing the 1st Congressional District. Scott, the first black Republican the state has sent to Congress since Reconstruction, and Haley represent the new, more-diverse face of the S.C. GOP.
Key question: Scott already has struck a high profile in Washington. But whether that higher profile will benefit the state, with the federal government also facing massive budget woes, remains to seen. Voters rejected two long-tenured congressmen, Democrat John Spratt in the 5th District and Republican Bob Inglis in the 4th. The 3rd District also has a new congressman, meaning four of the state’s six congressmen will be freshmen, costing the state political clout. (Only one S.C. Democrat remains in Congress: U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia.)
First clean sweep. The election of former Newberry College president and retired Brig. Gen. Mick Zais as state superintendent of education gave the GOP – which already controlled the S.C. House and S.C. Senate – control of every statewide elected office for the first time in state history.
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