Before a packed lobby on the second floor of the South Carolina State House, Gov. Nikki Haley ended weeks of feverish speculation by appointing Tim Scott to the Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Jim DeMint earlier this month.
Scott becomes the 56th Senator in South Carolina history and the first African-American to hold the title. Scott will be only the seventh African-American ever to serve in the United States Senate and the first from below the Mason-Dixon Line since the 1880s.
Haley acknowledged the historical impact of her selection, but said the reason why Scott was the right choice was because of his record in private business and his conservative credentials. “It was very important to me, as a minority woman, that he earn his seat,” Haley said. “But it’s not about the messenger, it’s the message.”
Before speaking, Scott asked for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the school shooting in Connecticut. Scott’s mother, who raised him as a single parent in North Charleston, was in attendance. He thanked her and John Moniz, a Lowcountry business owner who served as his mentor. Scott also thanked the rest of the South Carolina congressional delegation, who, with the exception of Rep. Jeff Duncan, were by his side at today’s press conference.
Scott also took the opportunity to address the ongoing budget negotiations, and said “We have a spending problem not a revenue problem.”
He said taxing the top two percent earners would not solve the budget problem.
As much as the event was a welcome to Scott, it was also a farewell to DeMint, as all the speakers paid tribute to him. DeMint spoke in detail about his plans once he joins the Heritage Foundation, but started by saying, “I can walk away from the Senate knowing somebody is filling it who is an even better conservative than I am.”
Scott’s appointment was widely praised in conservative circles. Conservative consultant Chip Felkel said the selection of Scott is a “big win for Haley, for Scott and for the State. She makes history, scores points with the Tea Party, the voters along the coast and the national media, as well as the GOP, which is in need of some positive news.”
Scott will be sworn in on January 3. He said he looks forward to traveling the state and meeting voters in anticipation of a bid for re-election in 2014.
The positioning for his seat in Congressional District 1 has already begun. Scott said he has no plans to make an endorsement.
Democrats are expected to mount a serious challenge to Scott in the 2014 senate race. Among the names being mentioned as possible challengers are Rep. James Smith of Richland County and Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg. A sleeper candidate could be Rep. Mia McLeod, also of Richland.
But there was little thought to those possibilities on Monday.
Scott acknowledged the significance of his appointment, and, citing his single-parent upbringing and his academic struggles said, “It shows we should never give up on kids, no matter what their circumstances.”