South Carolina – In Tuesday’s special election, Tameika Isaac Devine claimed a victory in the state Senate race. Her win is notable as she becomes the sixth female member in the upper house of the Statehouse.
Devine dominated her rivals in a seat that leans heavily towards the Democratic Party, located in the northwest region. Early tallies show she garnered almost 86% of the votes, though these results are still pending official confirmation.
Devine expressed her eagerness to move forward, focusing on her future responsibilities.
“I am glad that this is behind us, and I’m ready to get started tomorrow figuring out my next steps to be 100% prepared (when the legislative session begins) next Tuesday to take the wheel and hit the ground running,” Devine told the SC Daily Gazette on Tuesday.
Devine is taking late Sen. John Scott’s seat
Devine is stepping in to finish the term of the late Sen. John Scott, which will be up for re-election this November along with other legislative positions.
Scott passed away in August at 69 years old. He had been serving in this Senate seat since 2008, following an 18-year tenure in the House of Representatives.
In an October primary, Devine secured the Democratic nomination and went on to decisively beat her competitors, including Republican Kizzie Smalls. Smalls, a real estate agent from Columbia, managed to secure just below 10% of the total votes.
Michael Addison, running as an Independent, gained less than 3% of the vote. Chris Nelums, from the United Citizens Party, received slightly over 1%.
With Devine’s win, South Carolina makes history as it will have six women serving simultaneously in its 46-member Senate for the first time.
The five existing female Senators, who last year called themselves the “sister senators,” have been known for their bipartisan efforts, particularly against a proposed comprehensive ban on abortion.
“I feel very excited about the sisterhood that already exists up there (in the Senate), and I’m excited to join in,” Devine said. “I think that they have been a glowing example of how you can put partisan politics aside and do what’s in the best interest of the citizens of South Carolina.”
South Carolina among worst states with number of women in the Statehouse
South Carolina has been one of the lowest-ranked states in terms of female representation in the Statehouse. In 2023, only 14.7% of the 170 legislators were women, as reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. This was only slightly better than West Virginia, which had the lowest proportion of female legislators.
With the addition of another woman to the Statehouse, South Carolina’s percentage of female legislators will rise to 15.2%. This brings it closer to Tennessee, which is slightly ahead in these rankings.
Devine first broke barriers in 2002 as the first Black woman elected to Columbia’s City Council. She left her council position in 2021 to run for mayor but narrowly lost to Republican Daniel Rickenmann by less than a thousand votes.
As an attorney, Devine’s Senate campaign was centered on public safety. She advocated for reducing gun access and increasing youth intervention programs, issues she also championed as a councilwoman, along with tougher measures against gang violence.
Her immediate priority in the Statehouse is to oppose any moves towards Constitutional carry, which would allow carrying a concealed handgun without a permit.
“I do understand that folks want to support and recognize people’s Second Amendment rights, and I do too,” she said. “But I think that there are ways to do that without increasing access to any and everybody without having background checks and permits and training, which I think is reasonable.”
Devine also far outpaced the competition when it came to campaign contributions. As of Oct. 15, her last campaign expenditure report, she had raised more than $107,000 in donations. Smalls brought in only a fraction of that, with just over $1,700 in mid-December.