by Sam Spence
A day after state prosecutors handed down a nine-count indictment, House Speaker and Charleston state Rep. Bobby Harrell suspended himself from office, but stopped short of appeasing calls for his resignation from office.
In a letter to the clerk of the House today (posted below), Harrell, who was charged with violations of state ethics laws and misconduct in office on Wednesday, said he believed it was "the right decision for the South Carolina House of Representatives, its members and the people we represent" to step away from the leadership post he's held in the state House since 2005. Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas, a Republican from Darlington, will assume Harrell's responsibilities during the suspension.
After First District Solicitor David Pascoe filed the indictment in Richland County court Wednesday, reactions from state officials came right away, with some calling for his head.
State Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison:
“The Grand Jury and prosecutor have made the decision to move forward with charges against Speaker Bobby Harrell, and while the cases are pending the Speaker should resign from his role as Speaker of the House of Representatives and abide by state law as it relates to his suspension from the House of Representatives.
Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan:
"The charges against Speaker Harrell are very serious and could potentially result in jail time. With these kinds of major distractions, it is now both impossible and inappropriate for Mr. Harrell to remain as Speaker of the House of Representatives and he should resign immediately."
Upstate Republican state Rep. Tommy Stringer, (via Greenville News):
"I will allow a jury to determine Rep. Harrell's innocence ... However, as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, I cannot support any member in a leadership position who has been indicted. The people in my district deserve better."
Republican Speaker Pro Temore Jay Lucas (via The State):
"I was pulling for Speaker Harrell to get through this. Unfortunately, we are at a place where we need to get on the right path to move forward."
Republican Senate Pro Tempore John Courson (via The State):
"The three top offices in South Carolina government are governor, speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate. One hates to see any of those offices have potential problems that the indictment has indicated that Speaker Harrell has."
S.C. Policy Council Executive Director Ashley Landess, who filed the original complaint against Harrell (via The State):
"The attorney general still managed to push forward and get something done, and he deserves a lot of credit. It has never happened that the most powerful people in the state have been held accountable until today. ... (T)he speaker should be immediately suspended from the House of Representatives.