South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has named Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a Black businessman and second-term House member, to be the state’s next senator, making him the first Black southerner to sit in the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.
Scott, who embraces tea party principles and declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus, will replace Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is leaving with four years on his six-year term to run the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
The Dec. 17 appointment comes at a time when the Republican Party is trying to repair an image damaged when its hard-fought battle to defeat President Obama failed. The party has been admonished for its lack of diversity.
Still, the appointment drew a positive response from a key Black Democrat. “While we don’t see eye-to-eye on most political issues...the historic nature of this appointment is not lost on me,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), an African-American who is South Carolina’s only Democratic congressman and part of the House Democratic leadership. “I am confident Tim Scott will represent South Carolina and the country honorably.”
Scott has taken a conservative approach on the fiscal cliff debate, saying on the day of his appointment that boosting taxes on the top two percent of taxpayers, a move favored by Democrats and opposed by budget conservatives like DeMint, will not fix the country’s deficit woes.
Scott, 47, was born in 1965, the same year civil rights advocates had to fight through a 24-day Senate filibuster to get the Voting Rights Act enacted. Raised by his mother after his parents divorced, he became a successful insurance broker and defeated the son of legendary segregationist Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) to claim the House seat in 2010.
The last Black Republican to serve in the Senate was Edward Brooke (R-Mass.). The last Black southerner was Sen. Blanche K. Bruce (R-Miss.), who was elected in 1875.