Does Luke Rankin Really Have Your Back?

By Paul Gable

In a moment of supreme irony a new television ad proclaiming “Luke’s got your back” hit the airwaves shortly after a press conference was held in Conway questioning “Where was Luke” with regard to a bill that may have helped save the life of Mica Miller.

Regina Ward, the attorney representing the family and estate of Mica Miller, spoke with the press yesterday about the failure of a “Coercive Control” bill to even get out of the Judiciary Committee of the SC Senate and the SC House over a period of four years.

Mica Miller was the estranged second wife of Pastor John-Paul Miller when she took her own life on April 27th of this year at the Lumber River State Park in Robeson County, North Carolina. Mica’s death has been ruled a suicide by the Robeson County Coroner.

Mica was reportedly in the middle of divorce proceedings with her estranged husband John-Paul when she took her life. Since her death, details of how Mica’s life was manipulated by her estranged husband through a form of domestic violence called “coercive control” have come to light.

Ward spoke of the forms and effects of coercive control and how the SC General Assembly to date has failed victims of this type of domestic violence. Ward also spoke of the unsuccessful attempts to pass a bill that would have included coercive control in the state’s domestic violence laws, Ward called the current South Carolina laws with respect to domestic violence “archaic”.

Ward spoke of a 2020 media series on coercive control in which South Carolina was named as one of four states, joining Hawaii, Connecticut and California, attempting to pass coercive control bills. Those bills are now law in the other three states. The SC General Assembly failed to pass the legislation.

Twice, in bills introduced into the SC House in 2020 and 2021, the coercive control legislation died in the House Judiciary Committee. In December 2021, the same legislation was introduced into the SC Senate and died in the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of that body’s 2022 legislative year.

Ward spoke of how Rankin could have shepherded the coercive control bill through the Senate. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Instead, Rankin did nothing, never even assigning the bill to a subcommittee to begin the legislative process.

Ward is calling for another introduction of the coercive control legislation in the upcoming legislative session and calling it “Mica’s Law”.

Maybe earlier passage of this legislation would have given Mica Miller an avenue to pursue, which would have prevented her from taking her own life. We’ll never know, but it certainly appears Rankin did not have Mica’s back.

Ward mentioned the issue of domestic violence was on Rankin’s horizon in his 2020 bid for reelection when the Rankin campaign falsely accused his then primary runoff opponent of committing domestic violence, riding those false accusations to victory in the runoff election. Those false accusations are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against Rankin and other individuals and entities associated with spreading the false story.

But, in real issues of domestic violence through coercive control, Rankin and his Senate committee remained silent. Whose back does Rankin have on this issue?

Similarly, a bill to reform South Carolina’s liability system failed in the SC Senate this year despite garnering an 88% positive vote on an advisory question included on the February 2024 Presidential Primary ballot.

The failure of this bill resulted in an open letter from J. Richards Todd, President of the SC Truckers Association to Rankin.

That letter states in part, “Under your (Rankin’s) watch, South Carolina’s liability ‘system’ has brought on an insurance crisis that is weighing heavily on the hospitality industry, most threateningly to establishments that serve alcohol. A similar one looms ominously over vehicle owners, particularly commercial truck owners…That bill (SC Justice Act) was urgent, sponsored by every chairman in the Senate except for you…You effectively killed the Justice Act by assigning it to a subcommittee chaired by the bill’s arch rival, a trial lawyer Democrat…”

Whose back did Rankin have on this bill? Certainly not the businesses nor individuals whose livelihood is increasingly threatened by high insurance bills which could have been prevented with passage of the Justice Act.

Rankin’s campaign has promoted his dedication for road and infrastructure improvements in Horry County. Yet, the citizens of the county have seen the burden of paying for road and infrastructure improvements through a one-cent local option sales tax. Rankin has failed to obtain any significant road improvement funding for Horry County from the state budget. An additional over $6 billion in RIDE program funding will be requested from the voters on the November 2024 general election ballot. Where is funding from the state budget for these road improvements? Whose back does Rankin have on this issue?

There is one local issue in which Rankin’s influence was felt. Land owned by Santee Cooper, a state owned utility over which Rankin chairs a committee charged with oversight of the agency, recently gave a 40 year, no cost lease of land to the Horry County Humane Society, an organization over which Rankin’s wife presides as president. The lease was completed despite considerable protest from the residents of the Waterside Drive community whose neighborhood will be significantly impacted with increased traffic and noise problems. I guess we know whose back Rankin had on this one.

With respect to the television ad which was the impetus for this article, ‘If Luke Rankin has your back, keep looking behind you.’

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