By Melanie Mason and
Michael A. Memoli
Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman tea party Republican, will become South Carolina’s first Black senator, Gov. Nikki Haley, announced this week, appointing the congressman to fill the seat left vacant by Jim DeMint.
“Sen. Jim DeMint has led in a way that few others have led,” Scott said. “There’s no way to fill his shoes.”
DeMint, the conservative firebrand and godfather of the tea party, stunned the political world earlier this month when he announced he would be retiring from his seat midterm to become president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
DeMint will officially depart from the Senate on Jan. 1.
In the wake of DeMint’s resignation, Scott quickly emerged as a favorite among conservatives to fill the seat. At the news conference, DeMint signaled his approval of the governor’s pick.
“Governor, thank you for your faithfulness to our cause and your good judgment,” DeMint said. “Tim, I could not be happier today.”
Conservative advocacy groups, including the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, expressed similar satisfaction with Scott’s promotion.
Jenny Beth Martin, president of the Tea Party Patriots, called it a victory for conservative principles. “Tim Scott has taken our core values seriously in the House, and we have every reason to expect similar principled behavior in the Senate,” she said.
Scott will be the only African American in the Senate, which has been without a Black member since Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat who filled President Obama’s seat, left the body in 2010.
There has not been an African American Republican senator from the South since Reconstruction.
The Senate seat will be up for a special election in 2014, in which the winner will serve the final two years of DeMint’s term.