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Special SC Senate Election Makes History

Originally published by Becky Budds for WLTX

Tameika Isaac Devine has secured her place as the sixth female senator in South Carolina, adding to the growing representation of women in the state legislature.

Devine expressed her excitement at joining the esteemed group of sister senators, emphasizing their ability to work collaboratively across party lines for the betterment of South Carolina. “They’re an inspiration to me,” she said. 

Republican Senator Katrina Shealy, who previously served as the only woman in the chamber for years, jokingly mentioned the initiation process for new members. “Now, she can’t just automatically come in and be a sister senator,” joked Shealy. “We have to go through hazing and all this stuff to see if she’s up to par. But I’m sure she will make the cut.”

Women made up 14.7% of the 170 people in the Legislature in 2023, according to Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.

“It’s still not enough,” said Shealy. “We’re still, you know, six out of 46. So, we’ve got a way to go,” 

Reflecting on her previous historic win as the first Black woman elected to Columbia City Council, Devine sees her latest achievement as another opportunity to be a role model and open doors for more women in politics. 

“The thing about making history is it’s humbling, but it’s also to the point where you realize that there’s more work to do,” said Isaac Devine. 

Senator Penry Gustafson (R-Kershaw) was elected as the fifth female senator in 2020. 

“I can see clearly that the political power of women is growing in South Carolina,” said Gustafson. “I’m just here to tell you, that we don’t need permission to run for office or to serve on a board or a commission.” 

The senators tell News19 that women are just as likely to win seats as male candidates, but they’re less likely to be asked to run or believe they’re qualified enough. 

“Running when you’re a woman is hard to raise money because people don’t think you’re going to win,” said Shealy. “And people don’t want to invest money into a candidate.”

“I’m just here to tell you, that we don’t need permission to run for office or to serve on a board or a commission,” said Gustafson.

When asked about her legacy, Devine acknowledged the foundation laid by Senator John Scott, who she’ll succeed in the office after Scott passed away last August. She said while she can’t fill his shoes, she aims to contribute with her unique skills and perspective. 

“I think my legacy will, will look a little bit more about building relationships with all levels, a little bit of government and being able to then work together to provide solutions to the people that we serve,” said Isaac Devine. 

As a former local government official, she plans to focus on education, transportation, historically Black colleges and universities, and building relationships across all levels of government.

Top campaign issues included gun violence, education, workforce development, and the potential impact of Scout Motors– a new electric vehicle company coming to Richland County– in District 19. 

Offering advice to aspiring women politicians, Senator-Elect Devine highlighted the importance of passion for issues, sharing perspectives, and building relationships. 

“It’s not always easy. But also understanding that we need more women, we need our voices, our lived experiences in those rooms where policy is being made,” said Isaac Devine. 

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