With Republican Jim DeMint’s resignation from the Senate, Republicans now have a chance to take a bold and politically beneficial step by making Congressman Tim Scott the new senator from South Carolina.
Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, will appoint DeMint’s replacement once he resigns in April to take over the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The appointee would then run in 2014 for the final two years of DeMint’s term, set to expire in 2016.
Scott would be the first African American Republican in the Senate since Ed Brooke of Massachusetts. But Scott is no Ed Brooke, a liberal Republican who was defeated in 1978 by Democrat Paul Tsongas.
Scott is a reliable conservative. He was first elected in 2010 in the House district in the Charleston area—one of the most conservative districts in the country. In the House, he declined to join the liberal Congressional Black Caucus, which consists entirely of Democrats.
In Congress, Scott has become an influential member and, if he doesn’t jump to the Senate, is likely to move up the leadership ladder among House Republicans. Besides his conservatism, he is known for his likeability and skill in developing personal relationships with other House members.
As a senator, Scott would be highly visible. He would counter Democratic claims that Republicans are, at best, indifferent to minorities. His opposition to Democratic initiatives would draw national attention.
Scott is one of six Republicans in the South Carolina House delegation. Several others may seek the DeMint seat, among them Trey Gowdy, who represents the Greenville and Spartanburg areas and Joe Wilson of Columbia.
Whoever Haley appoints would face voters in the same year GOP senator Lindsey Graham is up for reelection. With a conservative like Scott running at the same time, Graham might avert a strong conservative challenge in the primary.