(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Tim Scott will be the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction, following South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement on Monday.
Haley named Scott, a Tea Party Republican congressman from the state, to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in a press conference just after noon on Monday. Scott will also be the only black in the Senate.
Tea Party leader DeMint is stepping down to head the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
“He earned this seat for what I know he’s going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud,” Gov. Haley said of Scott’s appointment.
South Carolina Republicans predicted Scott would get the seat since DeMint announced his resignation less than two weeks ago.
DeMint called Scott “a great choice for South Carolina and the nation,” in a statement released Monday. Tea Party group FreedomWorks also had praise for Gov. Haley’s decision.
“We are confident that Tim Scott will be a leading voice to advance the principles of individual freedom and limited-government, and he will be an excellent addition to a growing caucus of fiscal conservatives in the Senate,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said on Monday.
In accepting Haley’s nomination, Scott reflected on his childhood growing up in a single-parent household with a “mom who believed that sometimes love has to come at the end of a switch.”
“And she loved me a lot,” Scott laughed.
He said at this time, the nation is faced with some tough decisions and “needs some backbone.”
“I look forward to pressing the flesh on economic development issues, having the opportunity to work on making sure that our economy in this state continues to hum like an engine and get on the team with Nikki Haley to make sure that all of America continues to hear the great things about South Carolina,” Scott said.
Scott was the first black Republican in Congress since 2003 when he was first elected in November 2010 and the first black Republican from the South since 1901.
Scott will be the fifth black Senator since Reconstruction when he takes his seat. The four others include Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., who served from 1967 to 1979 and is the only other black Republican to join the Senate since Reconstruction; Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., who served as the first black woman Senator from 1993-1999; then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who was the first black male Democrat to join the Senate and served from 2005 until his resignation in 2008; and Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., appointed to President Obama’s seat in 2009.
Monday’s announcement makes him the first African American Southerner to take a seat in the Senate after the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
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Heather Long, CNN
Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
Allie Malloy and Kevin Liptak, CNN