There is a reason why South Carolina, despite being considered a solid red Republican-dominated state, is home to the highest income tax rates in the southeast. It’s because too many of the Republicans in positions of power in the state legislature in Columbia, some of them former Democrats, are simply not conservative.

One of the liberal Republican senators who works to keep South Carolina’s business tax climate uncompetitive, Senator Luke Rankin (R), is now fighting for his political life in a hotly contested primary runoff. Rankin’s loss would remove one of the impediments to pro-growth, conservative reform in the Palmetto State.

Republicans in South Carolina’s 33rd Senate District, home to Myrtle Beach, will head to the polls this coming Tuesday, June 23rd to decide the fate of longtime incumbent Senator Luke Rankin. Rankin received only 41.37 percent of the vote in the June 9 primary, forcing a runoff with challenger John Gallman, a financial advisor running to improve the composition of the South Carolina Senate.

Senator Rankin has been in power for almost 30 years and is attempting to run on his record. But his record is precisely what drew challengers in the first place. In particular, Rankin voted to impose a sizable gas tax hike three years ago by overriding Governor Henry McMaster’s veto.

When all is said and done, this Rankin-approved tax hike will have deprived taxpayers of roughly $1.8 billion over the first five years of its implementation, and will drain the economy of hundreds of millions more each year after that.

Rankin faced two challengers in the June 9th primary who collectively received nearly 60 percent of the vote. It appears that voters in this heavily Republican district want an alternative to the tax-hiking incumbent.

Rankin’s poor performance in the June 9 primary marked a significant drop-off in support compared to previous elections. In the 2016 primary, Rankin handily won the GOP nomination with 55.88 percent of the vote. In 2012, he didn’t even draw a primary challenger. What’s changed since previous elections is that Senator Rankin has imposed a regressive tax hike that’s costing South Carolinians at a time when many can least afford it.

John Gallman has understandably criticized Rankin for supporting the 2017 gas tax hike. “Luke Rankin was behind the gas tax, which is the largest tax increase we’ve ever had,” Gallman said. Gallman has joined Governor Henry McMaster in signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to South Carolina taxpayers that he will oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes.

Senator Rankin’s campaign website says he works “to build consensus to fund the highest priorities for our State – without raising taxes,” yet his record makes clear that’s not true.

On Tuesday, June 23 voters in South Carolina’s 33rd state senate district will choose between a proven tax hiker in Senator Luke Rankin, or John Gallman, a fiscal conservative who has joined Governor Henry McMaster in pledging to protect South Carolina taxpayers.