Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced Monday her decision to appoint Rep. Tim Scott to succeed Republican Sen. Jim DeMint—a decision she deemed "historic."
Scott, a tea party star, will become the first black Southern senator since the late 1800s. He first won election to the U.S. House in 2010 by beating out Paul Thurmond, son of former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond, in the Republican primary for South Carolina's 1st District. Upon his appointment, Scott will serve in the seat the elder Thurmond once occupied.
"It's a great day in South Carolina. It's an historic day in South Carolina," Haley said, standing beside Scott and DeMint at a statehouse press conference.
Haley, who is Indian-American, added that it was important to her "as a minority female that Congressman Scott earned this seat for the person that he is" and the results that he has achieved.
Haley cited Scott's knowledge of the "value of a dollar" and what America's working families face in today's economy as some of the things that played into her decision.
"This is an exciting day for many, many reasons," Scott said after holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
DeMint announced Dec. 6 his decision to resign from the U.S. Senate in January to head up the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. The senator has long been a Scott supporter and reportedly made clear his desire to have Scott succeed him in the Senate.
"I could not be happier today," DeMint said at Monday's press conference, noting that the thought of who would replace him was a major concern. Scott is someone who is "better than I am," DeMint added. "You've inspired me since the first time I heard you speak in public, and our country needs those positive, optimistic voices."
The appointment will give Scott a head start to compete in a special election to serve as DeMint's permanent successor in an election to be scheduled in 2014.
"I look forward to running in 2014," Scott said at Monday's press conference. "I look forward to pressing the flesh on economic issues."