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Harry Cato

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Harry Cato
Harry Cato.jpg
South Carolina House District 17
Term in office began
Term in office ended
Political party Republican
Profession Legislator
Harry Franklin Cato was a Republican member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (dead link), representing the 17th District since 1991. During his tenure, Cato has served on the Rules Committee and was Chairman of the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee from 1994 until 2008. Cato now serves as Speaker Pro Tempore of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

According to an October 2010 report by The Nerve, Cato recorded salary and expenses of $105,304 for the 2.5-year period from Jan. 1, 2008, through mid 2010, making him the fourth-highest-compensated legislator in South Carolina during that period.[1]

Cato was one of several South Carolina lawmakers who traveled to Panama in September 2010 for a three-day trip paid for by the South Carolina State Ports Authority, even though he's a member of a commission that oversees the authority.[2] At least $29,000 was spent on the Ports Authority-sponsored junket, which sought to promote South Carolina ports to Panama Canal officials.[3] Information gathered by the investigative journalism website The Nerve showed that the authority covered most of the costs for the seven-member legislative group, which included five legislators - Cato; Sen. Lawrence Grooms, R-Berkeley; Rep. J. David Weeks, D-Sumter; Rep. Bill Sandifer, III, R-Oconee; and Sen. Phillip Shoopman, R-Greenville.[4]

In the private sector, Cato is Manager of Cato Transportation Supply Inc.

Cato earned a Bachelor's of Science from Clemson University in 1980 and now resides in Travelers Rest, S.C.[5] (dead link)

In The State House

During his 18 years in the House of Representatives, Cato has focused on commerce and business, even starting his own 527 Political Action Committee, the Carolina Commerce Fund (CCF). The CCF has raised over $100,000. As illustrated in the Committee's State Ethics Reports, a great deal of those funds go to other candidates and/or incumbents for political office.

The conservative Club for Growth gave Cato a grade of "D-" for the 2007-08 Legislative session (the last session for which the group has records).[6] Project Vote Smart has extensive information on Cato's voting record and ratings from other organizations.



Cato lost to Tom Corbin in the Republican primary on June 8 by a margin of 3,379-1,818. Cato was seeking his 11th term. Corbin defeated Stephen Salter (D) in the general election on November 2.


On November 4, 2008, Cato won re-election unopposed to the South Carolina House of Representatives with 12,200 votes, representing District 17. 

Cato raised $51,749 for his campaign.[7]

South Carolina House of Representatives, District 17(2008)
Candidates Votes
Green check mark transparent.png Harry Cato (R) 12,200

Campaign donors


Cato raised $51,749 in the 2008 election cycle.

His major contributors are listed below.[8]

Donor Amount
SCANA Corp $2,000
Property Casualty Insurers Association $2,000
18 different donors each donated: $1,000

Controversial Vote

In filling a vacancy on the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2007, Representative Cato supported and voted for State Appeals Court Judge Don Beatty (noted in the S.C. Club for Growth Scorecard above). While most conservative groups and members of the South Carolina General Assembly opposed Beatty's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Cato helped forge alliances with the Black Caucus in support of Beatty.[9]

Much of the conservative opposition to Beatty's confirmation was predicated on some of his votes as a legislator from 1991-1995. One of the most controversial votes was in opposition to a bill that would have required physicians to present literature on abortion alternatives to patients.[10] Oran Smith, President of Palmetto Family Council, said of Beatty's vote on the abortion measure: "Only the most extreme liberals in the General Assembly voted against that."[11]


External links

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Political offices
Preceded by
South Carolina House of Representatives District 17
Succeeded by
Tom Corbin (R)