COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, who rose through the political ranks to become the first black Republican from South Carolina to serve in Congress since 1901, was named today to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Jim DeMint.
The 47-year-old Scott, who’ll be sworn into office Jan. 3, sought to downplay the historical significance of his appointment, instead praising his single mother for the 16-hour days she worked as a nurse’s assistant to support her family.
“I am thankful to the good Lord and a strong mom who believes love has to come at the end of a switch,” said Scott, who boasts credentials as a Tea Party favorite and evangelical Christian, and was backed by DeMint.
Scott’s appointment was announced by Gov. Nikki Haley at a noon news conference in the Statehouse lobby. Also attending the event were fellow Republicans DeMint and Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“It is very important to me as a minority female that Congressman Scott earned his seat,” said Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants. “He earned this seat for the person he is. He has earned this seat for the results he has shown. He earned this seat for what I know he will do in representing South Carolina.”
Scott was one of five Republicans Haley reportedly considered to succeed DeMint. Also on the list were U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, former state Attorney General Henry McMaster, former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford and Catherine Templeton, director of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Filling Scott’s House seat
Although state law allows the governor to appoint U.S. senators when seats become vacant in mid-term, Scott’s successor in the U.S. House will have to be picked in a special election.
South Carolina law is specific about special elections to fill unexpired U.S. House seats. The timetable triggers automatically once the seat is vacant.
After Scott takes office in the U.S. Senate Jan. 3, filing for the primary election to fill his U.S. House seat would begin Jan. 18, and last for 10 days.
The primary election would be held in early March. If a runoff primary is necessary, it would take place two weeks after the first primary election, in late March.
The special election to select a new congressman for the First Congressional District of South Carolina would be on the 18th Tuesday after the election occurs, probably in late April.
Although DeMint was re-elected to a six-year Senate term in 2010, Scott will fill DeMint’s term until the general election in 2014.
If he chooses to defend the seat, Scott will face election at the same time S.C. voters will vote for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Graham, and the governor.
Scott made it clear he intended to run in 2014.
“I look forward to having an opportunity in getting around the state and introducing myself,” Scott said.
“The future is incredibly bright for America,” Scott said. “We have our challenges, we have things that we have to overcome, but boy does the future look great in South Carolina.”
Place in history
Scott’s place in S.C. history was cemented when he was elected to the Charleston County Council seat in 1995. At that time, he became the first African-American Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
The first African-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina was Joseph H. Rainey of Georgetown, in 1870, according to Walter Edgar, author of South Carolina: A History.
“During Reconstruction, there were 15 persons of color in the U.S. House, and six of them were South Carolinians,” Edgar said.
“Between 1857 and 1876 there were 487 elections for state and federal offices in South Carolina. Of these black Carolinians won 255, or 52%,” Edgar said.
Edgar added that until U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat, the state’s last black Congressman was George Washington Murray of Rembert who was defeated for re-election in 1896.
Rainey and Murray and all other African-Americans who held public office in South Carolina from 1867 to the 1890s were Republicans, he said.
Clyburn congratulated Scott, noting that they do not always see eye-to-eye on issues.
“The historic nature of this appointment is not lost on me, and I am confident Tim Scott will represent South Carolina and the country honorably,” Clyburn said.
DeMint, of Greenville, announced Dec. 6 plans to resign from the Senate in January to become president of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
DeMint was first elected to the Senate in 2004, after serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 2010.
At the nonprofit Heritage Foundation, DeMint succeeds Ed Feulner, who helped develop the conservative advocacy group in 1973.
DeMint was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998 after owning an advertising and market research company for 20 years. DeMint left the House after limiting himself to three terms.
A fiscally conservative record
A business owner, Scott considers himself a fiscal conservative, and an advocate for smaller government and lower taxes.
Scott also has been a critic of President Barack Obama’s policies. The first bill he authored after his congressional seat in January 2011 sought to defund and deauthorize the president’s health care law.
Scott was named to the House Rules Committee, asked to serve as a deputy whip and was one of two freshman congressmen serving on the Elected Leadership Committee.
Scott, a backer of state right-to-work laws, was a vocal critic of the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to sue Boeing after announced plans to open an assembly facility for the 787 Dreamliner passenger plane.
A social conservative, Scott has co-sponsored bills protecting family values and reaffirming the right to bear arms, which is covered by the 2nd Amendment.
In his 2010 run for Congress, Scott defeated Paul Thurmond, son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, in a runoff for the Republican nomination. He then captured 65% of the vote in the general election.
Prior to being elected to Congress, Scott served on Charleston County Council for 13 years, including four terms as chairman. In 2008, he was elected to the state House of Representatives for one term.
Scott is a graduate of Charleston Southern University.