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Longest-serving U.S. senator plans to retire in South Carolina

Written by The Anand Market

Updated on:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The longest-serving U.S. state senator currently in office does not plan to run for reelection again this year in South Carolina.

Democratic Rep. Nikki Setzler was elected to the Senate in 1976 and has served there ever since. He said after prayer and reflection, he knew it was time to end his 47 years of public service in the Senate and embark on a new adventure.

“Serving the people of South Carolina has been the honor of a lifetime. Thank you for your trust in me, for the opportunity to serve you, and for taking this journey with me,” Setzler said in an opinion piece published in The state newspaper.

When Setzler arrived in the Senate in 1977, there were 43 Democrats and three Republicans. Today, there are 30 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one independent.

Setzler remained a Democrat even as his district, anchored in suburban Lexington County west of Columbia, became one of the most Republican-dominated areas in the state and many fellow Democrats switched positions. left.

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Setzler spent eight years as Senate minority leader. He was known for having a level-headed voice and someone who knew how to keep a deal and a secret.

Current Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said Setzler was instrumental in helping the state get through the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and when state utility Santee Cooper partnered to the private utility South Carolina Electric & Gas in a nuclear power plant project that cost billions of dollars and never produced a watt of electricity.

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Setzler has become a vital minority voice during budget work, trusted by longtime Republican committee chairmen who run the Senate Finance Committee.

Setzler said he was most proud of bringing 4-year-old preschool to the state, increasing teacher pay, expanding roads and highways as the state added many more million people and set aside money to conserve the land.

“This journey has not been about accolades or awards. It was about making a difference,” Setzler wrote in the newspaper.

Redistricting after the 2020 U.S. Census placed Setzler and Democratic Sen. Dick Harpootlian in the same district. And his voters were increasingly voting for his Republican challengers.

Setzler received 66 percent of the vote in his first re-election in 1980. That figure had fallen to 58 percent by 2000, when Republicans took control of the Senate. And the lawyer obtained 54% of the votes to win a 12th term.

In 2023, Setzler became the nation’s longest-serving state senator when North Dakota State Senator Ray Holmberg left office. Setzler’s colleagues awarded him A resolution.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.