Opinion

Ravenel steps down

Thomas Ravenel no doubt is acting in his own best interest in resigning as state treasurer. But he also did the state a favor in not drawing out the process before deciding to step down.

Ravenel faces a federal charge of buying cocaine and giving it to friends. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Legal observers say that Ravenel's surprise resignation last week is a sign he won't challenge the evidence against him. It also is a likely first step in seeking a lighter sentence.

Ravenel, with no prior record and a good track record, may be in a good position to bargain for a light sentence. Legal experts say that a show of contrition and acceptance of responsibility for one's actions are viewed favorably by judges.

Meanwhile, the state can get on with the matter of choosing a new treasurer to serve the rest of Ravenel's term. Lawmakers will return to Columbia on Friday to elect the new treasurer.

Ken Wingate, the temporary replacement appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford, said recently that he has no interest in becoming the permanent successor. Sanford, on Tuesday, endorsed Charleston County Council Chairman Tim Scott for the job, urging lawmakers to look outside their ranks for someone committed to reforming the office.

Scott is a financial services professional. He would be the first black constitutional office holder in the state since Reconstruction.

But Sanford is hedging his bets. In a written statement endorsing Scott, he said that if lawmakers decide not to go outside the General Assembly for a candidate, then they should elect state Sen. Gregg Ryberg for the job. Ryberg, whom Sanford endorsed in the GOP primary for treasurer last year, came in second to Ravenel.

But Ryberg is not the only member of the Legislature interested in the job, and the scramble should heat up considerably this week. At stake is control of the Budget and Control Board, which holds sway over much of how state government operates.

Ravenel had been allied with Sanford and state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, giving them a majority vote on the five-member board. But the newly elected treasurer might align himself of herself with the two legislative members of the board. And, although they all may be Republicans, the interests of the governor and the Legislature often diverge.

In short, with Ravenel out of the picture, a lot will be riding on Friday's election.

Thomas Ravenel, facing federal drug charges, resigned from his post as state treasurer.

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