HomeLearning CenterA man’s world in SC’s State House? Not if Katrina Shealy has anything to say about it (she does)

A man’s world in SC’s State House? Not if Katrina Shealy has anything to say about it (she does)

Katrina Shealy had something to say.

But it was 2 a.m. and everyone, as she was moments before, was asleep.

Gnawing at her was the impending South Carolina Senate debate over a near-total abortion ban, a proposal that would stop the procedure almost entirely and offer few exceptions. The debate in the Legislature was years in the making, but had hit a pivotal turn in June 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, overruling Roe v. Wade and empowering states to ban abortions.

The self-described “pro-life” Lexington County Republican, who the year before had backed a six-week abortion ban, had something to say — or in this case, at 2 a.m., write.

“I’m going to say something tomorrow,” Shealy said, before penning her remarks in a bedside notebook the night before her Sept. 7, 2022, floor speech. “I don’t know what I’m going to say. But I started writing.”

Years earlier, in Shealy’s second run for the Senate against veteran state Sen. Jake Knotts in 2012, an editorial in The State newspaper described the 5-foot-3, blonde, donkey-owning former Lexington County Republican Party chairwoman as a “frustratingly mixed bag.”

“She would present a better public image” than Knotts, the editorial assured, but noted her answers felt like “memorized talking points.” The writer, wrestling with who to endorse (the editorial did not make an endorsement), said they couldn’t help but wonder whether Shealy had an “over-eager desire to be liked.”

Shealy will admit she was nervous in her race to oust an incumbent — or in her frank way of speaking, Shealy says she was “scared as poop.” Hoping to gain votes, she wanted to be liked. All these years later, Shealy says she still wants to be liked.

What’s evident now is that desire isn’t going to stop what the 68-year-old grandmother has to say. It surely won’t stop her serious stare, often visible as she’s confronted Cabinet directors, state agency chiefs and oftentimes her own colleagues.

“If you ask me a question, I’m gonna tell you the truth, and then I don’t have to think about it later,” Shealy said on a muggy day from her home’s sunroom, where she can look out at her backyard and her nine donkeys.

“I’ve watched other senators, they will say things I know they don’t believe, and I think that’s just wrong. … It may not be what my constituency thought I was gonna say, but it’s the truth, and most of them agree with me — they’re just afraid to say it.”

The State

Back to News