By Barney Blakeney
A month after refuting rumors he would leave the S.C. Legislature House Dist. 113 Rep. J. Seth Whipper has resigned. Whipper leaves the legislature in August after 23 years to take a position as a Charleston County magistrate.
He said last week the new position, one he held eight years prior to being elected to the legislature, will keep him closer to his North Charleston home. His urban district in the state’s third most populous city is rapidly changing. With a federal administration that projects a lot of uncertainty, Dist. 113 constituents must be particular about who is elected to succeed him, Whipper said.
“It’s definitely a lot of work so I hope people start thinking about it,” he said. He’s always looking at potential candidates for the seat though there hasn’t been an effort to field a candidate. Whipper said last month, “I’ve been looking for someone since my third term.”
Others have been contemplating a run at the seat however, and Monday North Charleston attorney Marvin Pendarvis said he’s going to take a shot.
“The time is now. This is an opportunity to step up and be a part of the movement. This is my opportunity to do that,” said Pendarvis who sought a seat on North Charleston City Council in the 2015 municipal election. A product of North Charleston public schools graduating from Garrett Academy in 2007, the University of South Carolina and later University of South Carolina School of Law, Pendarvis currently is practicing law at The Curry Law Firm in North Charleston where he specializes in Civil Litigation and Criminal Defense. Pendarvis said he views succeeding Whipper as a passing of the torch. “I’m ready,” he said.
There are others who say they can’t pursue the seat at this time. St. Julien Corey Van Hannegeyn ran for the North Charleston Dist. 7 seat in the 2015 municipal election as well. He doubts he’ll enter the fray in a special election which likely will be held before the end of 2017 to complete the year left on Whipper’s unexpired term. Whipper’s departure was anticipated the seat likely will be filled by a Democrat in the heavy majority Black legislative district that encompasses areas from North Charleston to Summerville, he said.
Industry in the district is growing with the expansion of Boeing Aeronautics. And with the development of the S.C. State Port Authority economic stimulus and jobs training are among the paramount issues confronting the district’s leadership, Van Hannegeyn said. But before any of that can be tackled, public education in the district where many of its public schools are failing represents an immediate challenge, he added.
Twenty-four-year-old Sh’Kur Francis is Secretary of the South Carolina Democratic Party. The 2011 Burke High School graduate earned dual B.A. Degrees from Winthrop University. He anticipates graduating with a Master of Divinity Degree from Emory University, a Certificate in Church Management from Villanova University’s School of Business, and a Certificate in Ministry and Theology from Princeton University in May 2018.
Francis thought about offering for the seat, but decided to continue pursuing his education. But he hopes the opportunity will produce young leadership that can take the district’s constituents into the next two decades as effectively as Whipper’s leadership has done the past two decades. He’s concerned however about whether that will happen. Not enough young people are engaged in leadership activities, he said.
This is a huge opportunity because open seats rarely are available, he said. But there’s a vacuum, a gap in generational leadership, Francis noted. Young Blacks aren’t being trained or given opportunities to serve, he said.