In a military organization such as a state’s National Guard, it makes sense that the overall commander, the adjutant general, is appointed. That’s the case in every state except South Carolina. Here, the office of the adjutant general is one of nine on the ballot.
Gov. Nikki R. Haley earlier this month signed legislation, approved with wide support by the General Assembly, setting a public referendum in November on a constitutional amendment. If voters approve, the S.C. adjutant general will be appointed by the governor. The legislation, House Bill 3540, sets qualifications for the office and processes the governor will use to appoint the adjutant general.
To the credit of House and Senate members, H.3540 was approved 105-5 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate. S.C. legislators may take a bipartisan bow — except for those five naysayers in the House. At least on this measure, bipartisanship was alive and well in the General Assembly and that surely is a good thing.
Credit also goes to Army Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, who has worked to advance the measure through the legislature to the governor. When she signed H.3540, Haley and legislative leaders praised Livingston. “He is a great leader that has done great things for our National Guard and we wouldn’t be here today without him. To know that we will have someone of his caliber appointed, rather than having to take a chance in an election, is an extremely important step forward for the people of South Carolina,” Haley said.
Livingston was renominated last week by a wide margin over his Republican primary opponent and no Democrats sought nomination as adjutant general candidate. South Carolina has a highly ranked National Guard and voters have elected capable and qualified leaders in the past. It’s risky, howver, to take a chance on the possibility of election of a candidate with no military background. (Livingston’s primary opponent, James Breazeale of Florence, is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.) Electing the adjutant general also causes stress through the organization and no military organization needs more stress than is part of the job.
Haley has it exactly correct in saying “we never get tired of restructuring our government and bringing it into the 21st century.” The fact is, the governor deserves credit for her support of streamlining state government. At long last, the state has a Department of Administration to “rid us of the Budget Control Board.” Voters previously approved election of the lieutenant governor and governor on the same ticket, which will start in 2018.
Haley would be among the first to agree that more restructuring is in order, such as appointing the state superintendent of education. A dozen names were on the two ballots last week for nomination as the Democratic and Republican candidates.
What 21st century voter has pertinent knowledge of such candidates -- or any desire to elect that official. Four decades ago, Illinois took the office of public instruction off ballots after the Constitutional Convention of 1970.
Even with having the gubernatorial offices elected as a team and appointing the adjutant general, the S.C. ballot will include the offices of secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, comptroller general, state superintendent of education and commissioner of agriculture.
That’s two or three too many.