Tim Scott received a call from Governor Nikki Haley Sunday night. “Do you want to be a U.S. senator?” Haley asked.
Scott, a Republican congressman from Charleston, says he doesn't remember anything else from the conversation, but within 18 hours, he was being introduced as the Palmetto State’s next senator.
In a phone conference with reporters Monday afternoon, Scott says he first started thinking about the idea of serving in the Senate when incumbent Republican Jim DeMint called him on December 6 to say he was resigning his seat. DeMint plans to leave the Senate next month to take the helm of the Heritage Foundation.
Scott says he will look to DeMint as a model for how he will work and vote in the Senate, though he also mentions Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as other senators he hopes to emulate.
Haley says she reached her decision to appoint Scott “late last week” but wanted to take a day or two to think about it before formally asking him.
Asked about the “historic” nature of the pick (Scott is black and will be the only black senator in the next Congress), Haley insists the congressman “earned” the appointment through his years of service.
“The fact that he is a minority is one more thing that our country can be proud of,” she says. “It is something that we ought to celebrate.”
Scott himself says he did not want to downplay the significance of being the first black senator from South Carolina and the first black Republican senator in more than 30 years. He says he thinks about it differently than when he was first elected nearly 18 years ago to the Charleston city council, the first black Republican to win any election in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
“It probably weighed on me differently than it did now,” Scott says.