South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley, flanked by the Palmetto State's GOP congressional delegation, officially appointed Republican Rep. Tim Scott to succeed Sen. Jim DeMint on Monday.
"It is a great day in South Carolina," Haley said at a news conference at the state capitol in Columbia. "It is a historic day in South Carolina."
Scott is expected to be sworn into the Senate when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3. He will run in a November 2014 special election to fill out the remainder of DeMint's current term, which runs through 2016. His appointment means that the chamber will once again have African-American representation. The last black senator was Illinois Democrat Roland Burris, an appointee who served from 2009 to 2010. Scott will be the first black GOP senator from the South since 1881.
"This man loves South Carolina and he is very aware that what he does and every vote he makes affects South Carolina and affects our country," Haley added. "And so it was with that that I knew that he was the right person. I have no doubt that he will fly through 2014."
Haley acknowledged the historic nature of the pick, but repeatedly said that Scott had "earned" the appointment, deflecting questions that she selected him because he is an African-American.
Conservative interest groups and Hill Republicans were elated with the news and released a flood of positive press releases welcoming Scott's move across the Capitol. For ideologues, Scott fits the tea party mold. For pragmatists, he offers a a different story coming out of the Deep South — an African-American rising star in a party that is increasingly populated with older white males.
"The future is incredibly bright for America. We have our challenges," Scott said in his remarks. "We have things that we have to overcome, but boy, does the future look great in South Carolina."
Prior to his selection, most Palmetto State Republican operatives said Scott was the smartest choice for Haley. Her 2014 re-election is no sure bet, and she will share the ballot with both Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham, the state's senior senator. Scott was widely viewed as the appointee who could best aid Haley's re-election.
DeMint also spoke at the news conference. There were many positive comments exchanged about those present, but it was especially noteworthy how much praise he, Scott and Haley heaped on Graham, who faces a possible GOP primary challenge in 2014.