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Rep. Tim Scott named next U.S. senator from S.C.

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Dec 28, 2012 - 12:27:39 PM

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WASHINGTON - South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announced Dec. 17 that she will appoint Black Republican Rep. Tim Scott to replace Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is leaving Senate Jan. 1 to head the conservative Heritage Foundation.

"It is with great pleasure that I am announcing our next U.S. senator to be Congressman Tim Scott," Gov. Haley said. "I am strongly convinced that the entire state understands that this is the right U.S. senator for our state and our country."

Senator-designate Scott will become the only Black member currently serving in the Senate and the first Black Republican to serve in the upper chamber since the 1970s when Sen. Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) served.

In his remarks accepting the appointment, Rep. Scott, emphasized his conservative fiscal philosophy and praised Sen. DeMint and other people who helped him achieve success—most importantly his mother. "I am thankful for a strong mom that understood that love sometimes comes at the end of a switch," Rep. Scott said.

"Well, Tim Scott is extremely conservative, but he’s a nice guy," Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) told The Final Call. "He chose not to join the Congressional Black Caucus because he realized that the policies we would embrace would not be in harmony with the policies of the Republican Caucus of which he’s a member."

Rep. Scott will become just the seventh Black person to serve in the Senate and the first Black senator from the South since the 1880s. Still, he will not likely become an influential "Black leader."

"First of all, the star among African Americans is already taken—that’s Barack Obama," Dr. David Bositis, senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said on Washington radio station WPFW-FM’s program "The Morning Brew."

"There’s no one else who’s even remotely close to Barack Obama in that sense. Plus, soon to be Sen. Scott is a favorite of the Tea Party. The Tea Party is home to a lot of racists. The policies they advocate would hurt African Americans very, very much.

"I often use the phrase, ‘He is an African American who is a representative, right now. And he’s an African American who will be a senator. But he’s not a Black representative or a Black senator in the sense that he’s representing African Americans in the Congress,’" Dr. Bositis continued.

As he did during his one term in the House, Rep. Scott will likely remain aloof from Black constituents and Black leaders, and hostile to Black interests.

"So, I think we can work well with open-minded conservatives who are not caustic and tribal in their politics," Rep. Cleaver said. "For example, there was a good relationship between the Congressional Black Caucus and the former Oklahoma quarterback, (Rep.) J.C. Watts. He was open. He said, ‘Look, I’m not going to join the Caucus, but if something comes up that impacts African Americans, you know we’re going to work together.’ And members of the CBC will tell you that exactly was the case."

Mr. Scott was first elected to the House in 2010, winning an open seat after defeating the son of longtime segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who held the state’s other Senate seat for nearly 50 years until 2003.

Only three Black senators have been voted into office by their constituents: Sen. Brooke, Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) and now-President Barack Obama (D-Ill.). The others were appointed by their governors or elected by their state legislatures, before the direct election of U.S. senators began.

While he was quiet and kept a low profile in Congress in his first and only term, Mr. Scott made his mark among his peers. "He was the president of his freshman class, and he was chosen to be the equivalent of his sophomore class in the House," Dr. Bositis said. "So he had received some note. He wasn’t like Allen West (R-Fla.) who said a lot of fairly outrageous things and got a lot of attention because of the outrageous things he said, because he (Mr. Scott) is a fairly quiet person."

Rep. West was also a Black, Tea Party-supported House member elected in 2010, but Mr. West was defeated by Democrat Patrick Murphy in November.

Mr. Scott’s new Senate seat will be up for a special election in 2014, when the final two years of the DeMint term will be at stake, and again in 2016, when a full six-year Senate term will be filled. He could face GOP primary opposition in what is considered to be a safely "red" or Republican state.

It’s ironic that Mr. Scott defeated the son of one of the legendary arch-segregationists to win his House seat in 2010, ironic because this Black man may in fact be more conservative than Mr. Thurmond.

"That certainly was ironic," said Dr. Bositis, "although the truth be told, in terms of issues of race, Strom Thurmond mellowed somewhat compared to a lot of Southern Republicans, as he got older. He supported the renewal of the Voting Rights Act when there were other Southerners like (Sen.) Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) who were speaking out against it. He lost the hard edge he had when he was younger in terms of the racism he practiced then."

Gov. Haley, the state’s first governor of East-Indian descent, and the first female governor in the state, said she picked Rep. Scott because of his merits and not his racial identity. "It is important to me, as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat," Gov. Haley said.