Charleston-based Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC) got the nod from Gov. Nikki Haley Monday to replace Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) for the next two years.
This decision, expected by many in Washington and Columbia, makes Rep. Scott the first African-American senator from South Carolina for either party and the only black U.S. Senator serving in this Congress.
Haley emphasized that despite the historic racial significance of her choice, Scott “earned it.” Scott will be sworn in to his new office on January 3.
Scott also downplayed his race in comments to reporters shortly after his appointment, saying that his constituents rarely bring up the color of his skin. “That’s an amazing thing. I think it speaks to the evolution of South Carolina and of our nation.”
Other members of the state’s congressional delegation were on hand at the Statehouse press conference for the announcement.
Sen. DeMint says he feels secure that someone is going to Washington “that is better than I am” in forwarding the conservative cause.
“I can walk away from the Senate knowing that someone is in this seat… that will carry that voice of opportunity conservatism to the whole country in a way that I couldn’t do,” he said Monday. DeMint plans to resign from the Senate in January and instead become president of the Heritage Foundation.
Since being sworn in for his freshman term in 2011, 1st District Rep. Tim Scott has positioned himself as a conservative congressman aligned with Tea Party groups. The first bill he authored called for the defunding and deauthorization of the Health Care Reform Law. He was also at the center of last year’s very public fight between congressional Republicans and the National Labor Relations Board over the NLRB’s legal action against Boeing’s North Charleston plant.
Scott was named to the influential House Rules Committee, asked to serve as a Deputy Whip and sits as one of two freshmen on the Elected Leadership Committee. He easily won re-election to the House of Representatives in November.
Prior to being elected to Congress, the 47-year-old Scott served on Charleston County Council for 13 years, including four terms as chair. He left that post once he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2008 and served in the Statehouse until his election to Congress in 2010.
Scott is the owner of a Charleston-based insurance agency and partner of Pathway Real Estate Group. He also works as a financial advisor.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Democrats questioned whether Scott would take the same hard-line positions on spending issues that made his predecessor popular amongst conservatives, but helped contribute to a dysfunctional logjam that has plagued the Senate for the past two years.
“Senator Scott has a big decision to make. Will he choose to be a statesman fighting for the best interests of all South Carolinians or will he follow the model of Jim DeMint, allowing political ideology to trump constituent needs?” the state party’s First Vice Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement.
Scott said he plans to limit his time in the Senate, “I think 12 to 14 years from this point is a good number,” he said Monday, “I think two full terms would be fantastic. But, I’d better win the first one or the second term doesn’t really matter much.”