Rep. Tim Scott, who emerged from a modest upbringing to become an icon of the conservative tea party movement, on Monday was appointed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to replace the resigning Sen. Jim DeMint, a fellow Republican.
Mr. Scott, who won a second term to the House last month, will be the Senate’s first black Republican from the South since the late 19th century.
The governor said Mr. Scott – rumored to be her top choice all along – has the political “courage,” fiscally conservatism and pro-business acumen to serve the state and nation well.
“He knows the value of a dollar. He understands what every family and small business goes through, and he has stayed consistent to that,” said Mrs. Haley, a Republican, during a news conference at the state Capitol to announce her decision.
“This man loves South Carolina, and he is very aware that every vote he does affects South Carolina and affects our country.”
Mrs. Haley, whose parents were Indian immigrants, brushed aside the notion that Mr. Scott’s race was a positive factor in her decision.
“It is very important to me, as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat,” she said. “He earned this seat for the person he is. He earned this seat for the results he has shown. He earned this seat for what I know he’s going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud.”
Mr. Scott, who asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting before he spoke at the Columbia news conference, thanked God, Jesus and his mom for helping him navigate life.
“When you start out in a single-parent household with a mom who works 16 hours a day, and you’re looking at a future that doesn’t look at bright, and you’ve living in North Charleston, S.C., you build a strength that comes from having the appreciation and understanding that it’s not about you, that it’s about your faith, it’s about our family,” he said.
Mr. Scott vowed to continue his fiscally conservative approach that helped him first win election to the House in 2010, when the tea party movement spurred a Republican wave that helped the GOP win control of the chamber.
“Our nation finds itself in a situation where we need some backbone. We need to make very difficult decisions,” he said. “If you have a problem in spending, there’s not enough revenue to make up for it. We have a spending problem, ladies and gentlemen, in America, not a revenue problem.”
Mr. DeMint, another tea party favorite who was rumored to be pushing for Mr. Scott’s appointment, thanked the governor for “her good judgment.”
“Tim, I could not be happier today,” said Mr. DeMint at the news conference. “I can walk away from the Senate knowing that someone is in this seat that is better than I am, that will carry that voice of opportunity conservatism to the whole country in a way that I couldn’t do.”
Mr. DeMint will step down in January, and in April assume the presidency of the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s leading conservative think tanks. He became a major electoral force beginning with the 2010 elections, helping promote tea party candidates in primaries against establishment GOP favorites, including Mr. Scott.
Mrs. Haley last week said she wouldn’t appoint a “placeholder” for Mr. DeMint’s seat, saying she wanted her pick to be someone who would consider seeking re-election to the seat in 2014.
Mrs. Haley said Monday she’s confident Mr. Scott easily will win election back to the Senate in two years.
Mr. Scott will be sworn in to the Senate on Jan. 3.
Fiscal and social conservative groups also praised Mrs. Haley’s decision.
“Congressman Scott is a fighter for limited government and pro-growth policies in Washington, and we can’t wait to see him in the Senate,” said Chris Chocola, president of the influential free-market group Club for Growth and a former Republican congressman from Indiana.
Others who reportedly were on the governor’s shortlist to replace Mr. DeMint were Rep. Trey Gowdy, former state Attorney General Henry McMaster, former first lady Jenny Sanford and Catherine Templeton, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.