In an unexpected move, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., resigned his Senate seat in order to take over as president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
The resignation comes just two years into DeMint’s second six-year Senate term, and will be effective Jan. 1.
DeMint was known as a darling of the Tea Party movement, oftentimes holding views that were to the right of even his fellow GOP Senators. He was also known for lending a hand in GOP primaries on behalf of candidates who shared his conservative beliefs, opposing more centrist Republican candidates.
Some blame him for the GOP’s inability to win back the Senate, with hand-picked candidates like Sharron Angle of Nevada, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, and Ken Buck of Colorado losing in recent Senate races. He did back successful conservative candidates in Florida, Texas, and Utah.
DeMint’s last act in office will likely be spearheading Tea Party opposition to any fiscal cliff solution that includes an increase in taxes. After that, he will move on to the Heritage Foundation, where he’s said he will have a larger, more national platform to spread his views from.
“I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight, and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
The governor of South Carolina, Republican Nikki Haley, will appoint a successor to DeMint. A special election will then be held in 2014 for DeMint’s seat, the same year that key Senate leader Lindsey Graham is up for re-election. There are no shortage of possible appointees for the seat, including Rep. Tim Scott. If selected, he would be the first African-American Republican Senator for the state since the Reconstruction era. It will likely save Graham a primary battle in 2014 as well.
The move to the Heritage Foundation will likely mean a bigger paycheck for DeMint. Senators earn $174,000 a year. The last president of the Heritage Foundation made $1.2 million last year.
– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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