COLUMBIA — The top Democrat in the South Carolina state Senate is stepping down from his role after the minority party lost three seats in the 2020 elections, bringing the party to their smallest number ever in the chamber.
Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia, will not seek reelection to his leadership position after eight years at the helm of the Democratic caucus, said caucus political advisor Antjuan Seawright.
“However, he will remain committed to being a bipartisan consensus builder in the Senate and working on behalf of his constituents and the people of South Carolina,” Seawright said. “Sen. Setzler is also dedicated to fostering a new generation of leadership within the caucus, and will offer his continued counsel and guidance moving forward.”
Early contenders to fill the leadership spot include state Sens. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, Darrell Jackson of Hopkins, Gerald Malloy of Hartsville, Margie Bright Matthews of Walterboro and John Scott of Columbia.
Democrats were eyeing several Republican-held seats this year, particularly in districts around the Lowcountry, in hopes of narrowing the partisan margin in the 46-member chamber from the pre-election makeup of 27 Republicans to 19 Democrats.
Instead, the minority party not only failed to flip any of their target seats but also lost three long-time incumbents: State Sens. Floyd Nicholson of Greenwood; Glenn Reese of Spartanburg; and, most surprisingly, Vincent Sheheen of Camden, a two-time Democratic nominee for governor.
The defeats mean Republicans will enter the legislative session in January with a much more commanding 14-seat majority, making it easier for them to pass more partisan legislation over the objections of Democrats.
They also come before the decennial redrawing of district lines for legislative and congressional seats. With Republicans taking their biggest majorities in both chambers, the new lines they’re in control of drawing could make it harder for Democrats to win seats back.
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