SC lawmaker, former candidate for governor to leave Democratic Party

Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 10:08 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 12:46 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina state senator announced Tuesday she has decided to leave the Democratic Party.

Sen. Mia McLeod, who represents District 22 in Kershaw and Richland Counties, said she made the decision after “much-needed time to pray, rest, reflect and recharge.”

In a statement released Tuesday morning, she said her decision is based on her belief that the state’s Democratic Party “no longer espouses the values my constituents and I hold dear.”

“I want you to be the first to know that my decision isn’t meant to disparage anyone who identifies as a SC democrat, but the SCDP’s ‘party-focused’ approach doesn’t work for the people,” she said. “And if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for me.”

McLeod ran unsuccessfully to unseat Republican Gov. Henry McMaster in Novermber. She lost the nomination of her party to former First District Congressman Joe Cunningham.

McMaster defeated Cunningham with 56% of the vote and will be sworn in to serve his second full term Wednesday in Columbia.

“My parents taught us to always vote for the person whose vision and values were most aligned with ours. I’ve stayed true to that by working with and supporting honest, compassionate, empathetic servant-leaders of both parties,” McLeod said in an email. “But, after fighting Republicans and Democrats for the past 12 years…it hurts to admit how often I’ve had to fight my own party, just to help my own people.”

She says while she has run as a Democrat, she has served her diverse constituents “with integrity and independence,” which she says has often put her at odds with the state’s Democratic Party establishment.

“As the first woman to represent House District 79, first woman and African-American to represent Senate District 22 and first black woman to run for governor of SC, my mission is to advance a ‘people-focused’ platform that genuinely improves lives, since I’m now even more enlightened about the true state of our state and why so many of us lack the representation and resources we need to thrive here,” she said.

She criticized the party, which she accused of failing to make “any significant changes” and failing to win a state gubernatorial race for 20 years.

“By not engaging, enlightening or expanding the electorate…refusing to publicize the June Primary and getting a historical top of the ticket ‘shellacking’ on November 8, the party ensured a Republican super-majority and the losses of eight Black legislators in the S.C. House, five of whom were black women,” McLeod said.

She vowed to remain a “strong voice” in government that is “authentic, bold and courageous” and who will not be “blinded by party loyalty, silent on critical issues or content with the status quo.”