Davis, along with state Sen. Lee Bright, are seen as two potential challengers to Graham, who has vulnerability on his right flank but is in relatively comfortable shape two years out.
In an interview, however, Davis said he made it clear to Haley’s office Thursday morning that he had no interest in being appointed to the seat. He didn’t rule out a subsequent bid for Senate down the line, saying he was focused on the 2013 state legislative session.
Echoing conservatives in the state, he framed Haley’s decision as exceedingly important. And he suggested freshman GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney would be a good pick.
“Right now, we’re in a battle for the Republican Party up there. I don’t think that’s being too dramatic,” he said. “What Gov. Haley has to do is send someone up to Washington, D.C., that has the principles, intellect and the intestinal fortitude of Jim DeMint.”
The other GOP members of the state’s House delegation have also been mentioned as contenders for a Senate appointment, although they appear less likely: Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson. One GOP insider also said Wilson’s son, state attorney general Alan Wilson, could be a contender.
Former state Attorney General Henry McMaster is widely mentioned as a placeholder appointee. He ran against Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial primary but gave his strong support to her in the GOP runoff. McMaster didn’t return a call seeking comment.
State Rep. Nathan Ballentine has also been floated as a potential placeholder candidate.
The Associated Press reported that Haley would not give herself the nod. “No, I will not be appointing myself. That’s not even an option,” she said.
Even though Democrats don’t have a realistic shot at making either South Carolina Senate race competitive in 2014, Democrats were relieved the conservative firebrand DeMint was leaving.
“Democrats in the business community are breathing a sigh of relief and saying, ‘good riddance,’” said Jaime Harrison, the vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.
If Scott were appointed senator, a special election would be held to fill his comfortably Republican district that stretches from Hilton Head Island north along the coast.
Chad Walldorf, the Haley-appointed chairman of the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisers, is seen as a top possible contender. He would likely get the support of Haley’s organization if he ran, insiders said. Other potential candidates in the 1st District include state Sen. Larry Grooms and state Rep. Jim Merrill.