When Sen.-designate Tim Scott (R-S.C.) replaces Sen. Jim DeMint (R) next year, he will become the upper chamber’s only African American and the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.
For Scott, it’s another milestone in a career filled with notable moments. Below we take a closer look at the life of next senator from the Palmetto State.
Scott was born in 1965. He and his siblings were raised in Charleston by a single mother who worked as a nurse’s assistant, according to the Almanac of American Politics. In high school, Scott befriended the owner of a local fast-food restaurant who became a mentor.
An athlete, Scott went on to earn a partial football scholarship to Presbyterian College and later wound up Charleston Southern University, where in 1988 where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Scott went on to work in the real estate and insurance industries. He was the owner of Tim Scott Allstate and partner of Pathway Real Estate Group, his congressional biography notes. He made his first run for office in 1995.
That year, Scott made a bid for a spot on the Charleston County Council and won with ease. In a lengthy profile of Scott published earlier this year, National Journal’s Ben Terris explains how Scott’s presence on the county council helped the GOP:
From the start, Scott’s presence on the council paid dividends for Republicans. Civil-rights advocates in the city had long claimed that its at-large districts made it difficult for minorities to get proper representation, but a lawsuit asserting that Charleston’s at-large system violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was thrown out shortly after Scott’s election. In 2001, after a series of appeals, Charleston adopted a system of single-member districts, but during the interim, Republicans often cited Scott’s place on the council as proof that minorities could get elected there.
Scott served on the Charleston County Council for 13 years before being elected to the state House in 2008. There, he was selected to be chairman of the Freshman Caucus and House Whip.
Scott burst onto the national scene on 2010, when he defeated Paul Thurmond in a runoff election for the Republican nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District. When he won his seat in Congress that November, Scott made history, becoming the first black congressional Republican from the Deep South since Reconstruction.
What's more, in defeating Thurmond in the primary, Scott beat the son of the well-known late senator Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist platform. Scott was a co-chair on Thurmond’s final Senate reelection campaign in 1996.
Shortly after being elected to the House, Scott declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus. "While I recognize the efforts of the CBC and appreciate their invitation for me to caucus with them, I will not be joining at this time,” Scott said at the time. “My campaign was never about race."
In the House, Scott has crafted a conservative record and hasn’t been afraid to go against the grain of GOP leadership. The freshman, who tied as the 80th most conservative member of the House, according to National Journal’s 2011 Vote Ratings, was one of 22 House Republicans to vote against a leadership-backed measure to raise the debt ceiling that year.
As Terris notes in his profile of Scott, the congressman is staunchly conservative, but he enjoys a warmer relationship with GOP leadership than other members at the rightward end of the conference. For example, Scott was selected by GOP leaders to serve on the Elected Leadership Committee.
Scott remains very popular with tea party activists and other conservative groups. The anti-tax Club For Growth lauded Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) selection of Scott to replace DeMint as a “great choice.” The conservative group Americans For Prosperity called him an “excellent choice.”
Scott would face his next election in 2014, with state law requiring an appointed senator to face reelection during the next scheduled general election.