Tim Scott to become only African-American in Senate

File Photo. Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was reportedly picked by Gov. Nikki Haley to succeed retiring Sen. Jim DeMint Monday.
File Photo. Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was reportedly picked by Gov. Nikki Haley to succeed retiring Sen. Jim DeMint Monday.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will name Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to fill Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)’s Senate seat in a news conference today, according to The New York Times.

Scott, a Republican, will become the only African-American in the Senate, a considerable boost to a party often criticized for its lack of diversity. He’s also the first African-American from South Carolina elected to the House of Representatives since 1901. To date, only six African-Americans have ever served in the Senate.

“It is important to me, as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat,” Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) said Monday, praising the congressman’s achievements. “He earned this seat for the person that he is. He earned this seat with the results he has shown.”

DeMint reportedly favored Scott to take his place and called him “a great choice for South Carolina and the nation” in a statement Monday. “I can walk away from the Senate with confidence knowing that someone is replacing me who is better than I am,” DeMint said.

fellow contender for the seat Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) had only kind words for his colleague. “If you were to select the best senator to represent a state with a history as rich but provocative as ours,” Mr. Gowdy told The New York Times last week, “you would construct Tim Scott.”

A former small business owner, Scott served on the Charleston County Council for 13 years and in the South Carolina House of Representatives for two years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was chosen to serve in a leadership role for his freshman class. Raised by a single mother who worked as a nurse’s assistant, Scott has said publicly that he struggled with school until the owner of a Chick-fil-A franchise began to mentor him.

DeMint shocked Washington with the announcement of his retirement earlier this month. The Tea Party favorite will lead the conservative Heritage Foundation as president beginning in January. He told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on December 6, “I believe that I can do more good for the conservative movement outside of the Senate in leveraging the assets of The Heritage Foundation.”

Scott will complete the two remaining years in DeMint’s term. He will then have the opportunity to defend his seat in 2014. Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will also be up for reelection at that time. Scott’s South Carolina House seat will be filled in a special election in the spring of 2013.