Nikki Haley appoints Rep. Tim Scott to Senate

December 17, 2012

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced Monday that she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to the Senate.

Scott will replace Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is leaving the chamber in January to head up the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"It is with great pleasure that I am announcing our next U.S. senator to be Congressman Tim Scott," Haley said. "I am strongly convinced that the entire state understands that this is the right U.S. senator for our state and our country."

Sen.-designate Scott, 47, will become the only African-American currently serving in the Senate and the first black Republican to serve in the upper chamber since the 1970s. He will also be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Scott, in his remarks after Haley, emphasized fiscal conservatism and praised DeMint and the people who made him the person he is today -- most importantly his mother.

"I am thankful for a strong mom that understood that love sometimes comes at the end of a switch," Scott said.

His selection is little surprise, as his name quickly rose to the top of most people's lists mere hours after DeMint announced he was going to resign. There are plenty of ambitious Republican politicians in South Carolina, but Scott made sense for the appointment for a whole host of reasons, including his close relationships with Haley and DeMint and his ties to both the conservative base and the party establishment.

Scott's new Senate seat will be up for a special election in 2014, when the final two years of DeMint's term will be at stake, and in 2016, when a full six-year Senate term will be up. It remains quite possible that he could face primary opposition.

Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will also be up for reelection in 2014, making it a huge year in the state's politics. Scott's House seat, meanwhile, will be up for grabs in a special election to be held in mid-2013.

“This is a day that’s been long in the making in South Carolina," Graham said. "And I’m glad to see it come.”

DeMint added: "I can walk away from the Senate with confidence knowing that someone is replacing me who is better than I am. I can tell you, Tim, you've inspired me from the moment I saw you speak in public."

Scott was first elected to the House in 2010, winning an open seat after defeating the son of longtime Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), the former segregationist who held the state's other Senate seat for nearly 50 years until 2003.

He will become just the seventh African-American to serve in the Senate and the first black senator from the South since the 1880s.

Only three black senators have been voted into office by their constituents: Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and now-President Barack Obama (D-Ill.). The others were elected by their state legislatures (before direct election of U.S. senators began) or appointed.

Haley, the state's first Indian-American governor and first female governor, said she picked Scott because of his merits and not his racial identity.

"It is important to me, as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat," Haley said. "He earned this seat for the person that he is. He earned this seat with the results he has shown."

Four other Republican were on Haley's short list as of last week: Rep. Trey Gowdy, former state attorney general Henry McMaster, former state first lady Jenny Sanford and Haley appointee Catherine Templeton. Sanford notably is the ex-wife of former governor Mark Sanford (R), whose fast-rising political career was thwarted when he admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina.

Scott said he expects to assume his new office on Jan. 3.

For more on Scott, check out the National Journal's profile of him from earlier this year.

Updated at 12:34 p.m.

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Aaron Blake · December 17, 2012