Rep. Tim Scott named new South Carolina senator

(CBS) -- South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has been appointed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley to the Senate seat now held by Republican Jim DeMint. DeMint is leaving the Senate at the end of the year to run the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.

"He is the right person," she said. She pointed to his strong relationship with the business community and the "courage" he showed during a fight with the unions and the National Labor Relations Board during a recent effort to move Boeing factories to the state.

Scott will be the first African-American Republican in the Senate since former Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., lost his bid for reelection in 1978. The 47-year-old, who won a second House term last month, was the first black Republican to represent South Carolina in the House in more than a century.

With DeMint and Scott standing at her side, Haley called the appointment "historic."

"As a minority female, it is important to note that Congressman Scott earned this seat," Haley said.

J. David Woodard, political science professor at Clemson University, said Scott can be "a real vehicle for conservatives to reach into the African American community" following an election in which Republicans fared badly among minority groups.

Like DeMint, Scott is a tea party-backed conservative who sought repeal of the national health care law. A vocal critic of President Obama, he has said it would be "an impeachable offense" if Mr. Obama raised the debt ceiling without congressional approval.

Woodard said Scott is also sufficiently conservative for South Carolina. "They don't want to send someone up there who's going to cave in," he said.

Scott was one of two freshman elected in 2010 appointed to the House Republican leadership team, and was the odds-on favorite to replace DeMint.

The Tea Party Patriots praised the appointment. "This is a positive step for...our principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets," Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots said in a statement.

Scott will have to run for election in 2014 to finish the term that expires in 2016, when two South Carolina senate seats will be up for election simultaneously. Meanwhile, a special election must be held to replace Scott on May 7.

Scott reportedly was chosen over fellow South Carolina congressmen Trey Gowdy and former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford, whose husband left office in disgrace after public revelation of an affair with a woman from Argentina.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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