Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Scott will become the first African-American senator from the South since the late 19th century after he was chosen Monday by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill Jim DeMints soon-to-be-vacated seat.
The historic nature of Scotts appointment, however, was not what the governor and congressman from North Charleston said mattered most to them.
I understand we made history today. And I am proud that we made history today, Haley said. As the daughter of Indian immigrants I want to remind everybody that it is not the messenger. It will always be the message.
Scott, 47, said, while there is no way to have another Jim DeMint in America, he would try to uphold the Greenville senators conservative ideals when he takes office Jan. 3. DeMint is leaving with four years remaining in his second six-year Senate term to become the head of the Heritage Foundation think tank.
Haley said she selected Scott because of his record of bringing jobs to the state helping lure a Boeing aircraft plant to North Charleston and defending South Carolinas economic interests helping win federal money to dredge the Port of Charleston.
Scott, who ran for Congress in 2010 promising to serve just four two-year terms, said he hopes to hold the Senate seat for two full six-year terms. He also plans to run in a 2014 special election to fill the final two years of DeMints term.
Scott was seen as the frontrunner to succeed DeMint from the moment the senator announced on Dec. 6 his plans to resign. Scotts conservative credentials he was backed by the tea party and the history-making aspect of his appointment appealed to Republicans, looking to diversify the GOP and add minority voters.
Haley considered five finalists to succeed DeMint. But there is little indication she seriously looked past Scott.
Two other finalists for the post former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster of Columbia and former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford of Charleston told newspapers they never heard from Haley until Sunday night, when she called to say they would not get the appointment.
Scott said Monday that boosting taxes on the top 2 percent of taxpayers, a move favored by Democrats and opposed by budget hawks like DeMint, will not fix the countrys deficit woes.
We need to have some backbone. We need to make some difficult decisions, Scott said. We have a spending problem in America and not a revenue problem.
DeMint, who attended the announcement Monday at the State House with several other state congressmen, praised Scotts appointment.
I can walk away from the Senate knowing someone is in this seat that is better than I am (and who) will carry the voice of opportunity conservatism to the whole country in a way that I couldnt do, DeMint said.
The news conference briefly reflected on DeMints eight years in the Senate, where he carved a niche for being a leading dissenting vote.
DeMint said he has worked to change the makeup of the Senate, electing more conservatives. Its slow two steps forward and one step back.
Scott is the first black U.S. senator from the South since Blanche Bruce of Mississippi in 1881. He will be the seventh African-American to serve in the Senate.
While we dont see eye-to-eye on most political issues ... the historic nature of this appointment is not lost on me, said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, an African-American who is South Carolinas only Democratic congressman. I am confident Tim Scott will represent South Carolina and the country honorably.
Haley said race did not play a factor in her decision. He earned this seat for the person that he is, she said.
Scott said people should emphasize his success story.
He was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was young. She supported her family by working 16 hours a day as a nurses assistant. Scott got jobs working at a gas station and a movie theater, but he struggled early in high school.
Scotts life turned around after meeting the owner of a Charleston Chick-fil-A restaurant, John Moniz, who became his mentor. Scott said Moniz taught him the Christian principles of self-reliance that influenced his decision to become a Republican.
In 2010, he defeated the sons of two powerful S.C. Carolina political fathers, Strom Thurmond and Carroll Campbell, to win a seat in Congress, having won the endorsement of national GOP stars Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.
Scott won a second two-year term to Congress in November and was awarded a seat on the influential Ways and Means committee.