The next U.S. senator from South Carolina can run for the office in a 2014 special election after Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday she would not appoint a placeholder to succeed the resigning Jim DeMint.
The move means the first-term Republican governor plans to choose a senator who can hold the seat for years to come.
Someone is going to get a head start on 2014, said Warren Tompkins of Columbia, a veteran S.C. GOP political consultant who has advised DeMint.
While TV satirist Stephen Colbert is the top candidate to replace DeMint, according to a poll released Monday, the presumed front-runner, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott of North Charleston, said he has not spoken to Haley or her staff about DeMints post.
Scott said he has no plans to meet with the governor when she comes to his Charleston-area district today to tour Boeings jet plant. Scott will be leaving for Washington about the same time the Boeing tour starts.
Scott would not say whether he would accept the appointment if offered, but added he has received many calls encouraging him to make a pitch to the governor. Certainly, there is a lot of interest out there, he said.
Scott, whom DeMint reportedly favored when he announced his resignation last week to head the Heritage Foundation, would be the first black U.S. senator from the South since Reconstruction if appointed.
He could be the new national face of South Carolina, said GOP political consultant Richard Quinn of Columbia.
Scott, 47, had no opinion on Haleys decision to not appoint a senator who would hold the seat only until the 2014 election, except to say that in addition to her declining to appoint herself it was another step toward making a decision before Christmas.
Appointing a successor soon could help the state.
If Haley names a replacement before Jan. 3 and DeMint steps down, the new senator would have more seniority than the 12 new senators to be sworn in that day. DeMint ranks 53rd among the 100 senators in seniority. Well have someone out ahead of that pack, Tompkins said.
Haley won praise from S.C. political experts for avoiding a placeholder senator, who would have agreed not to run for the seat in 2014.
The governor said she did not want to tie the hands of her appointee about running for office.
I do not want to deprive our states citizens of the chance to render their judgment on the appointees performance by way of their vote, Haley said in a statement. Most importantly, while I am an avid supporter of term limits, I do not want the effectiveness of our states new U.S. senator to be undermined by the fact that he or she will automatically be leaving the office such a very short time after assuming it.
Haleys decision appears to open the door for Scott. Other candidates for the permanent post mentioned most frequently are U.S. Reps. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land and Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg. Both, like Scott, are Republicans who won second terms in November.
The widely favored placeholder candidate was former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster of Columbia, who backed Haley after losing to her in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.
McMaster, 65, declined comment Monday before a meeting of an ethics-reform commission appointed by the governor that he co-chairs. Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins of Greenville also has been mentioned as a placeholder.