By Paul Gable
Since switching parties in 2004, conservative constituents of Senator Luke Rankin have questioned whether he is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). The answer may have finally come with a vote Rankin cast in the SC Senate last week.
Rankin is completing his eighth consecutive term as a Senator, representing District 33. In 1992, 1996 and 2000, Rankin was elected as a Democrat. By the 2004 election, Democrats basically could not get elected in Horry County any longer, so Rankin switched parties and has run as a Republican for his last five terms.
Last week, the SC Senate passed a constitutional carry bill, which will allow law-abiding citizens to carry loaded guns without any training or a permit. The vote was 28-15 to pass the bill with 28 of the 29 Republican senators in attendance voting to approve the bill. Rankin, the lone Republican senator to vote against the bill, joined the 14 Democrat senators in attendance to vote NO.
Immediately after the bill passed, the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus issued a press release applauding the bill’s passage. The release began, “Once again, Senate Republicans delivered on their promises and passed H.3594, the South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act.” The release also stated, “The People asked and Republicans listened.”
But one Republican senator did not listen. Instead of joining his 28 Senate Republican colleagues to deliver on that promise, Rankin joined 14 Democrats to oppose it. The vote demonstrates Rankin is out of touch with his own caucus.
Rankin is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee heard testimony about the constitutional carry bill. Sen. Wes Climer, chair of that subcommittee said after the bill’s passage, “Once this bill is signed into law, every law-abiding South Carolinian will be able to carry a firearm anywhere it is legal to do so, without the need for a permission slip from the government. It ranks among the most significant expansions of individual liberty in this State in decades.”
But Rankin was obviously against this extension of individual liberty to the citizens of South Carolina as witnessed by his vote. He couldn’t get even one senator from the committee he chairs to agree with him.
Quite possibly this explains why Horry County always trails other metropolitan areas of the state in road funding and other government appropriations. Rankin, one of the longest serving members of the SC Senate, chose not to vote with his caucus on an issue that was guaranteed passage by Rankin’s Republican colleagues. It’s difficult to get grants and appropriations to help your particular district when you vote against a popular statewide bill that everyone in your caucus supports except you.
The most effective legislators who ‘bring home the bacon’ for their respective districts are those who are willing to be part of a legislative team to get things done instead of standing out as a ‘lone wolf’ voting against popular legislation.