With the South Carolina stalwart leaving to head the Heritage Foundation, the GOP could have its first Southern black senator since Reconstruction.
In seismic political news, Jim DeMint, the senator form South Carolina and leading light of the hard-right wing of the Republican Party, announced Thursday that he's leaving office in January to head the Heritage Foundation.
That means Governor Nikki Haley will need to appoint a successor to hold the seat until a special election can be held in 2014. Another election, for a full six-year term, will occur in 2016. For a small state, South Carolina has an impressive bench of possibilities, but there's one name that immediately sticks out: Rep. Tim Scott.
Scott, who represents Charleston, was elected to the House as part of the Republican wave of 2010. Strongly aligned with the Tea Party, Scott would not only be a strong conservative successor to DeMint, he would be the first black Republican senator from the South since Reconstruction, when two were elected from Mississippi, and the first black Republican senator since the 1970s, when Edward Brooke held one of the Massachusetts seats. For Scott to ascend to the Senate from the city where the Civil War started, during the sesquicentennial of the war no less, would constitute powerful symbolism for a party that has struggled to appeal to minorities and is looking at potential demographic oblivion at the national level. Although Scott has said he wants to be known as a conservative leader, not a black leader, it would be hard for him to not be seen as one should he be appointed to the post, as he would also be the only African-American in the U.S. Senate. Already, the influential conservative writer Erick Erickson is putting Scott's name forward, and The Hill reports DeMint favors him too.