South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley Names Tim Scott to Replace Jim DeMint in Senate

Scott to be First Black Senator from South Since Reconstruction

December 17, 2012, 10:16 AM

Dec. 17, 2012 -- Rep. Tim Scott will be the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction, following South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's announcement this afternoon.

Haley named Scott, a Tea Party Republican congressman from the state, to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in a press conference just after noon on Monday. Scott will also be the only black in the Senate.

Tea Party leader DeMint is stepping down to head conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.

"He earned this seat for what I know he's going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud," Gov. Haley said of Scott's appointment.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., applauded Haley for sending Scott to the Senate.

"He is a worthy successor to my good friend Senator Jim DeMint, who remains a role model for those of us drawn to public service and the desire to keep America an exceptional nation," Rubio wrote in a statement. "I look forward to working with soon-to-be Senator Scott in the months and years ahead to advance the principles of a limited and effective government."

South Carolina Republicans predicted Scott would get the seat since DeMint announced his resignation less than two weeks ago.

DeMint called Scott "a great choice for South Carolina and the nation," in a statement released Monday.Tea Party group FreedomWorks also had praise for Gov. Haley's decision.

"We are confident that Tim Scott will be a leading voice to advance the principles of individual freedom and limited-government, and he will be an excellent addition to a growing caucus of fiscal conservatives in the Senate," FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said Monday.

In accepting Haley's nomination Scott reflected on his childhood growing up in a single-parent household with a "mom who believed that sometimes love has to come at the end of a switch."

"And she loved me a lot," Scott laughed.

He said at this time, the nation is faced with some tough decisions and "needs some backbone."

"I look forward to pressing the flesh on economic development issues, having the opportunity to work on making sure that our economy in this state continues to hum like an engine and get on the team with Nikki Haley to make sure that all of America continues to hear the great things about South Carolina."

Scott was the first black Republican in Congress since 2003 when he was first elected in November 2010 and the first black Republican from the South since 1901.

Scott will be the fifth black Senator since Reconstruction when he takes his seat. The four others include Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., who served from 1967 to 1979 and is the only other black Republican to join the Senate since Reconstruction; Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., who served as the first black woman Senator from 1993-1999; then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who was the first black male Democrat to join the Senate and served from 2005 until his resignation in 2008; and Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., appointed to President Obama's seat in 2009.

Today's announcement makes him the first African American Southerner to take a seat in the Senate after the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

In December 2010 he declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus, saying, "The black community, like all communities, will benefit when businesses can use their profits to hire more workers instead of paying higher taxes."

"Reducing the tax burden, decreasing government interference in the private sector, and restoring fiscal responsibility, and I don't think those ideals are advanced by focusing on one group of people," Scott said at the time.

Scott was one of 10 black congressmen elected in South Carolina since 1870.

The lack of African American representation in the South has become even more remarkable in the past decade as the population of blacks in that part of America increased between 2000 and 2010, so that a majority of black Americans now live in the South, according to the most recent Census data.

South Carolina was not one of the 10 states with the highest population of African American residents, which included Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

As a freshman Tea Party representative, Scott said that Congress needed to focus on cutting spending, including in the military.

"In the military budget you have a number of items in there that are Congress' sacred cows," Scott told ABC News' Jon Karl. "The question really is, does it help us to meet our military objectives or does it satisfy our constituents in a way that is inconsistent with the military objective?"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement congratulating Scott on his new position, calling it a "historic moment for the Palmetto State."

"As a solid conservative who fights hard for the values and principles he believes in, Tim will help us find real, lasting solutions to the economic challenges facing our nation in the 113th Congress," McConnell wrote Monday.

National Republican Congressional Committee incoming Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Monday that the NRCC looks forward to working with Scott to "continue leading South Carolina families in the right direction."

"We could not be more proud that Tim Scott's historic career started in the House and that Tim will continue to make history in the Senate. Tim has been an outstanding member of the Republican conference and South Carolina will be well-represented with today's appointment."

Some had suggested comedian and South Carolina native Stephen Colbert might be chasing the Senate seat, but Gov. Haley ruled out that possibility in a Facebook post 10 days ago.

"You forget one thing, my friend. You didn't know our state drink," Haley wrote, linking to a clip of her appearance on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," in which Colbert forgot the state drink was milk. "Big, big mistake."

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