S.C. law­maker’s se­lec­tion makes his­tory for Se­nate

Tim Scott will be South’s first black GOP se­na­tor since Re­con­struc­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Sean­naAd­cox

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The man who will be­come the South’s first black Repub­li­can se­na­tor since Re­con­struc­tion said Mon­day his as­cen­sion in pol­i­tics showed the evo­lu­tion of his state and the na­tion.

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott was picked by fel­low Repub­li­can Gov. Nikki Ha­ley to take over the seat be­ing va­cated by Jim DeMint. Ha­ley, a daugh­ter of In­dian im­mi­grants who be­came South Carolina’s first fe­male and mi­nor­ity gov­er­nor in 2010, ac­knowl­edged mak­ing his­tory with her ap­point­ment, but she stressed that she picked Scott for his con­ser­va­tive val­ues.

“It is very im­por­tant to me as a mi­nor­ity fe­male, that Con­gress­man Scott earned this seat; he earned this seat for the per­son he is, for the re­sults he’s shown,” she said. “He earned this seat for what I know he’s go­ing to do in mak­ing South Carolina and our coun­try proud.”

Scott, 47, will be sworn in Jan. 3 to re­place DeMint, who an­nounced ear­lier this month he would forgo the re­main­ing four years of his term to lead the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tive think tank.

Scott’s se­lec­tion cul­mi­nates a fast rise through South Carolina pol­i­tics. Just four years ago, he was chair­man of the Charleston County Coun­cil. The 2008 elec­tion made him the first black Repub­li­can in the South Carolina Leg­is­la­ture in more than a cen­tury, and in 2010, he won his seat in the U.S. House from his con­ser­va­tive coastal district with 65 per­cent of the vote.

He’ll be­come only the fourth black Repub­li­can in Se­nate his­tory and the only black Repub­li­can in Congress, af­ter Rep. Allen West of Florida lost his re­elec­tion bid last month.

Out­side the State­house where Scott spoke, a statue still stands of Ben Till­man, the post-Re­con­struc­tion former gov­er­nor and U.S. se­na­tor who ad­vo­cated lynch­ing any black who tried to vote. An­other statue de­picts the late Strom Thur­mond, who still holds a record for a 24-hour fil­i­buster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

But Scott has never dwelled on his race.

“I’ve never heard on the cam­paign trail, ‘Be­sides the fact you’re black or be­cause you’re black, here’s what we want of you.’ They asked me ques­tions about val­ues and is­sues, and that’s an amaz­ing thing. It speaks to the evo­lu­tion of South Carolina and our na­tion,” Scott said.

Scott will serve for two years and then face an elec­tion in Novem­ber 2014. That would give South Carolina two Se­nate elec­tions: one for Scott and the other for two-term Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans wel­comed the ap­point­ment, which comes more than a month af­ter Repub­li­cans’ poor per­for­mance with mi­nori­ties in the elec­tion forced party soul-search­ing.

Gra­ham, South Carolina’s se­nior se­na­tor, said Scott has a unique op­por­tu­nity to in­spire oth­ers and be a lead­ing voice for the con­ser­va­tive cause.

“When it comes to try­ing to ex­plain what Amer­ica’s all about, I could not tell a bet­ter story than the story of Tim Scott,” Gra­ham said. “Tim is what Amer­ica’s all about.”

RAINIER EHRHARDT / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott laughs dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Mon­day in Columbia, S.C., af­ter Gov. Nikki Ha­ley named him to re­place Sen. Jim DeMint.

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