Scott Makes History But Campaign Trail Beckons
WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, whose appointment to the Senate on Monday made history, has a lot of hands to shake if he wants to keep his job longer than two years.
Only 25% of people living in South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District, far from the district Scott represents now, know who he is, according to a poll conducted by Clemson University political science professor Dave Woodard a few months ago.
Scott, 47, who will be the first black senator from the Deep South since Reconstruction when he replaces Republican Sen. Jim DeMint in January, will face voters statewide in 2014 if he wants to keep his Senate seat.
Scott, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District, acknowledged the challenge after Gov. Nikki Haley announced his appointment.
“I look forward to getting around the state and introducing myself,” Scott said.
If voters are wondering whether Scott will be like DeMint — an uncompromising tea party favorite with a willingness to defy party leadership — the answer is yes.
During his two years in the House, Scott has compiled a conservative voting record and has generally been loyal to GOP leaders.
But when House Republicans and President Obama battled over raising the nation’s debt ceiling last summer, Scott was one of 22 Republicans — along with the other three South Carolina freshmen — who voted against a compromise pushed by House Speaker John Boehner.
“That was the real acid test,” said Woodard, who cowrote a book with DeMint and advised his past campaigns. “If he wanted to compromise, he could have done it then. To go against party leadership as a freshman is a big deal.”
The other freshmen who voted with Scott against the compromise — Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney — are, like Scott, sophomores now. Scott’s close friendship with them will help him campaign in the state’s northern sections, Woodard said. The four are known on Capitol Hill for being close-knit.
“If you’re Tim Scott from Charleston and you have three friends in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Districts, those are nice friends to have,” Woodard said.
On other big issues, Scott:
- Supported repealing the 2010 health care reform law.
- Voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
- Backed the federal budget blueprint promoted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
- Wants to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a federal balanced budget.
- Voted to extend counter-terrorism surveillance programs in the Patriot Act.
He is also on record opposing gun control and wanting to make English the official national language.
Republican Rep. David Dreier of California, outgoing chairman of the House Rules Committee, worked with Scott for two years on the committee, where every issue in Congress gets hashed out before votes are taken.
In an interview, Dreier said Scott always debated from the perspective of how an issue would affect South Carolina.
“Tim Scott is one of the most thoughtful, measured and principled guys I’ve known,” Dreier said. “I’m leaving here after 32 years and I plead guilty because I haven’t had a really tough, rigorous campaign in a long time …and here is this guy out there fighting for every vote.”
Dreier said Scott’s appointment is an overdue milestone that will benefit the Republican Party.
“Too many of my colleagues look like I do: white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant,” Dreier said. “The appointment of Tim is a hugely positive step in this effort to see the Republican Party gain broader acceptance and support across the United States.”
Michael Steele, also a black Republican and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Scott will be elected in two years, and job performance will be a bigger factor than race.
“I suspect that South Carolina has long since grown beyond its past and I think it will prove to the nation … that a state like South Carolina is beginning to redefine the conversation on race in this country,” Steele said.
Steele campaigned for Scott in the state two years ago. He said he’s proud that Haley, a governor descended from Indian immigrants, appointed an African-American to the Senate from the South.
But Scott’s appointment won’t by itself solve the Republican Party’s difficulty attracting support from minorities, he said.
“What is he, the pied piper? Let’s get real,” Steele said. “I hope others in the party won’t subscribe to this view that the selection of Tim Scott means Republicans all of a sudden are touting an African-American agenda and African-Americans are going to flock to the GOP. We have a lot of work to do, and it starts with baby steps like this.”
Former Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, who switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican this year, agreed Scott likely will win election to the Senate seat in two years.
He said the long-term significance of Monday’s appointment will be obvious when young, black, politically ambitious men and women see an opening for them in the Republican Party, thanks to Scott.
“They are economically conservative and socially moderate to conservative who may have supported Obama but didn’t feel a deep attachment to the Democratic Party before that,” Davis said. “And the Republican Party may be the more likely vehicle for their ambitions than the Democratic Party.”
Scott declined to join the Congressional Black Caucus when he arrived in Washington in 2011. There are no signs that will change after he joins the Senate.
Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, assistant leader of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the CBC, congratulated Scott in a statement Monday.
“I have worked with him for several years, and while we don’t see eye-to-eye on most political issues and more often than not cancel out each other’s votes, I believe he is the personification of South Carolina’s motto, ‘While I breathe, I hope,'” Clyburn said. “The historic nature of this appointment is not lost on me, and I am confident Tim Scott will represent South Carolina and the country honorably.”
Scott’s established fundraising network will be key in his 2014 race and if he wins, the 2016 race that follows.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Scott has raised more than $2.8 million in his career, and his donor list reflects his political leanings.
Employees of the anti-tax group Club for Growth account for the single largest source of individual donations to Scott— more than $65,000 over the last two years. People and political action committees in the real estate industry — Scott’s previous profession — have donated $215,000 to his campaigns.
“Congressman Scott is a fighter for limited government and pro-growth policies in Washington and we can’t wait to see him in the Senate,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.