Freshman U.S. Representative Tim Scott was chosen by South Carolina’s governor to replace Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who will leave Congress in January to lead a small-government policy group.
Governor Nikki Haley said Scott, a fellow Republican, will fill DeMint’s U.S. Senate seat until a special election is held in 2014 to serve the last two years of the six-year term. DeMint announced Dec. 6 he will leave the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation, a Republican-leaning group in Washington.
Haley said Scott “earned” the seat through his record in public service.
“Many people have asked what went into this decision process, and it was pretty simple: He understands the strength that we need to have in our business community as we continue to focus on jobs,” the governor said at a news conference today in Columbia, South Carolina. Haley said she had “no doubt” that Scott will “fly through 2014.”
Scott said he will run to keep the seat in 2014. He said he is excited about “having an opportunity to get around the state” to introduce himself to his constituents.
“Our nation finds itself in a situation where we need some backbone, we need to make very difficult decisions,” Scott said. “I learned early in my 20s that if you have a problem with spending, there’s not enough revenue to make up for it.”
Scott is “a great choice” who is a “fighter for limited government and pro-growth policies in Washington,” Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth, said in a statement. The group, which backed Scott in a 2010 Republican primary over the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond, has given Scott a 92 percent lifetime rating.
Scott, 47, is first black Republican congressman from the deep South since the 1890s. He was re-elected last month to his Charleston-area House seat with 62 percent of the vote.
He would be the first black Republican to serve in the Senate in 34 years. Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, who served from 1967 to 1979, is the only popularly elected black Republican ever to serve in the Senate.
Elected in 2010 as part of the Tea party wave that swept Republicans to power in the House, he serves as a liaison to leadership, representing the views of Republican freshmen. He also is a member of the Rules Committee, which sets the terms for House floor debate.
Scott has been willing to break with leadership to press for deeper spending cuts and smaller government. In August 2011, he opposed a deal Speaker John Boehner brokered raising the federal debt ceiling. At the time, Scott said the measure “did not take enough steps towards ensuring a stable economic future.”
Scott “knows the value of a dollar, Haley said. “He understands what every family and small business goes through, and he has stayed consistent to that.”