Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston seems to be the popular choice to replace the retiring Sen. Jim DeMint, who is off to head up the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation.
That might be good for the Republican Party and Scott.
A less obvious choice might be better for the state. With apologies to Stephen Colbert, Mark Sanford should receive strong consideration.
Scott won a second term in the House of Representatives last month and will continue representing the Grand Strand only until next month when Tom Rice takes over, a result of redistricting.
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He would be an intriguing choice on several levels.
If Gov. Nikki Haley chooses Scott, it would mean South Carolina would have a minority as governor, Indian-American Nikki Haley, and the only black representative in the U.S. Senate, who would also be the first black person from the South to serve in such a capacity since the early 1880s.
Scott is a popular member of the tea party wing of the Republican Party who spoke at the Republican National Convention.
He’s qualified and DeMint’s supporters would not feel slighted, given the men share a political philosophy.
It would be an incredible feat for a state that still battles an unrefined racial image built largely upon our history of slavery, defiance against integration and a Confederate flag that continues to fly on the grounds of the State House in Columbia.
Scott’s appointment would put to rest the image of then-segregationist Strom Thurmond holding a record-long 24 hour and 18-minute filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Thurmond eventually became the longest-serving senator from South Carolina ever at more than 47 years, the third-longest tenure in the country’s history.
But Sanford makes sense, too.
The former governor halted his steady march up the national political ladder with an affair that almost derailed his second term.
Though he was able to salvage much of his final term after that high-profile incident, his traipse along the “Appalachian Trail” is what many people remember.
Sanford hasn’t publicly said he’d even be interested, and he’s surely not someone mentioned on Haley’s short list.
Still, he’d be a wise choice.
Sanford was the tea party before its modern incarnation.
He consistently fought for fiscally conservative ideas and positions during his three terms in the House and two terms as governor.
No, he wasn’t perfect or pure. I haven’t been shy in years past pointing out where I disagreed with or was disappointed in him.
But you’d be hard pressed to find someone more consistently committed to the types of fiscal concerns the tea party cites most often.
Perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t carry the tea party baggage that follows Scott and DeMint.
Sanford has upset as many people in his party in Washington and Columbia as he has in the Democratic party.
While the tea party says it is non-partisan and cares more about the country than the GOP, its actions over the past 4 years strongly suggest otherwise. Much of the growing angst with the tea party isn’t about its fiscal positions, but about its tactics and seeming disregard for the struggles of everyday Americans. That’s why a recent Winthrop University poll showed that less than 6 percent of South Carolina residents now identify as tea partiers.
Sanford has strong conservative views on social issues as well, based on his faith. But he hasn’t made them a centerpiece of his career.
That could give his demands for fiscal constraint on the Senate floor more credibility and perhaps more bipartisan support. Sanford had a secure seat in the House and could still be in Washington had he chosen. Instead, he vowed to limit himself to 3 terms and stuck to his promise.
He could serve 2 years in the Senate and provide a laser-like focus on fiscal constraint.
Sanford would not feel obligated to repay political favors or give in to unrealistic demands from residents who say they want to see government spending reined in – just as the reining doesn’t include spending they cherish.
Choosing Scott could help help mend this state’s ugly, divided past, a worthy goal.
Choosing Sanford might do more for our future.