On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the junior Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint (R) would resign effective January in order to become president of the Heritage Foundation. DeMint's sudden retirement is about to create a political shakeup in South Carolina and U.S. Politics. The onus will be on Governor Nikki Haley (R) to appoint a successor, who will have the seat until a special election is held in 2014 to determine who will finish DeMint's term, which ends in 2017. During the 2014 midterm elections, the state's other senator, Lindsey Graham, will be up for reelection in what is a highly unusual occurrence of two senators from the same state being up for (re)election in the same year.
DeMint was regarded as one of the more conservative members of the U.S. Senate — one who even had libertarian sympathies. While Haley will most certainly appoint a Republican to fill the upcoming vacancy, whether the next junior senator the state will be as conservative as the departing DeMint remains to be seen. Here are five possible replacements Haley may appoint:
1. Congressman Tim Scott
This would definitely be a surprising choice, as Scott is rumored to want to be governor at some point, but he's worth including here. The two-term congressman is South Carolina's first black Republican congressman since 1901. In the history of the U.S. Senate, there have been only six African-Americans who have served, none from South Carolina. Haley could go bold, and make a historic pick at a time when the Republican Party is coming under fire for a lack of racial diversity in its lawmakers.
2. Congressman Joe Wilson
Wilson is the lawmaker who famously screamed out, "You lie," during President Obama's 2009 address to a joint session of Congress outlining his proposed health care reform plan. According to his voting record, GovTrack declares Wilson a "far right Republican leader." Wilson's appointment would likely rankle few conservatives in the state, but in Washington it could certainly be interpreted as a poke in the eye to Obama.
3. Henry McMaster
The former state Attorney General lost to Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial Republican primary, but subsequently endorsed her in the runoff primary against then-Congressman Bob Inglis. Haley may repay the favor, albeit not for very long, as McMaster may not be interested in running in the special election in 2014.
4. Congressman Mick Mulvaney
GovTrack describes Mulvaney as "rank and file Republican," which is a bit afield from its classification of DeMint as "far right." But if Haley wants a safe pick that won't make too many waves in South Carolina or Washington, Mulvaney may be the best choice.
5. Nikki Haley
There's nothing preventing Haley from picking herself, aside from charges of shameless self-promotion. If Haley wants to serve in the senate at the end of her term as governor in 2015, she could always intentionally appoint a completely ineffectual politician to serve until the 2014 special election, and then roll that person in the GOP primary that year. In politics, stranger things have happened.