Friday, December 21, 2012
Tim Scott’s elevation to U.S. senator caps a meteoric rise in South Carolina politics, showcasing how the son of a single mother went from failing high school Spanish in North Charleston, to being rewarded with one of the most prized jobs in American politics.
Scott, a Republican, becomes the first black senator in the South’s modern era at a time when the GOP is struggling nationally to win support among minorities.
For the Lowcountry, Scott gives the Charleston region its first resident senator since influential Democrat Fritz Hollings retired in 2004.
Gov. Nikki Haley formally announced her pick Monday, confirming early speculation that Scott was the favorite to succeed resigning GOP incumbent Jim DeMint.
Scott, 47, thanked Haley, his family, mentors and well-wishers at a Statehouse press conference, flanked by members of the state’s congressional delegation.
“When you start out in a single-parent household with a mom that works 16 hours a day, and you’re looking at a future that doesn’t look as bright and you’re living in North Charleston, South Carolina, you build the strength that comes from having appreciation and understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about your faith, it’s about your family.” Scott said.
He was particularly thankful to his mother, who he said “understood that love sometimes comes at the end of a switch.”
Haley noted the historic and racially ground-breaking nature of the appointment but said Scott earned the job through a political career committed to a conservative Republican message.
“He earned this seat for what I know he is going to do to make South Carolina and our country proud,” she said.
Haley pointed to his pro-business credentials, support of the Port of Charleston and stances “against the National Labor Relations Board and the unions that tried to take Boeing down.”
Scott has taken anti-union stances during his brief time in Washington and as the Boeing plant expansion to North Charleston was being pursued.
“The one thing that the Republican Party needs to understand is that the answer to winning elections is it’s never about the messenger,” Haley said. “It’s never about what the messenger looks like, it is about the message.”
Scott will fill out the next two years of DeMint’s term before a special election is held in 2014 to fill out the final two years of the seat. Haley said she expects Scott to win out easily.
As an advocate of term limits, Scott said he envisions finishing the remainder of DeMint’s term and then maybe two more six-year terms after that. He expects to be sworn-in Jan. 3.
Scott’s appointment came over four other finalists. Former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford of Sullivan’s Island had been among those in the running. On Monday she said Haley called her about 10:30 p.m. Sunday to inform her she was not getting the post. It was their first discussion of the job, she said.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the narrowing process “avoided a long parade of interviews with potential appointees.” Instead, the governor focused on records, statements and positions of the potential appointees, and on discussions with her circle of advisers, he said.
“Finally, she invited Congressman Scott to visit with her at the Governor’s Mansion [Sunday],” Godfrey said. “They had a fairly lengthy discussion, at the end of which, she offered him the position.”
Scott’s political career dates to 1995 when he won a seat on Charleston County Council. He became the first black Republican elected to any office in South Carolina since 1900.
After a long stint on the council, in 2008 he won a seat in the state House of Representatives. In 2010, he won the Charleston and coastal South Carolina 1st Congressional District seat after incumbent Henry Brown retired.
While in office Scott became associated with the tea party movement and railed against government overspending.
“We have a spending problem in America, ladies and gentlemen, not a revenue problem,” he said Monday, pulling out a line he’s used on the campaign trail.
A special election to fill Scott’s 1st Congressional District seat will be held during the spring of 2013. A number of Republicans have expressed interest.
The first candidates came forward Monday when former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kobrovsky said he would run.
Mount Pleasant Republican Robert E. “Teddy” Turner IV also announced he will enter the race. Turner is a entrepreneur and conservationist who teaches high school economics at Charleston Collegiate School.
Among those also said to be considering runs are local Republican state lawmakers Larry Grooms, Chip Limehouse, Jim Merrill, Peter McCoy, and Paul Thurmond. Also possible are Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey, Scott legislative office chief of staff Joe McKeown, and Sanford.
DeMint will leave in January to become the next president of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
DeMint was at Monday’s news conference and enthusiastically supported Haley’s pick.
“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,” he said.
By Schuyler Kropf and Stephen Largen
Post and Courier
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