South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made it official Monday: GOP Rep. Tim Scott will replace Jim DeMint in the Senate. Her decision means a third special House election next year, in a strongly Republican Charleston district. As is the norm for a special election, expect a big field. Here's an early look at the potential candidates:
-- The Sanfords: The buzziest names floating around are former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford and her ex-husband, former Gov. Mark Sanford, who had an affair while married and serving as governor (and is now engaged to the woman). Jenny Sanford was reportedly on Haley's shortlist for the Senate appointment and is not ruling out a run. And Monday night, Roll Call reported that Mark Sanford is also "studying" a bid.
Several South Carolina political observers floated Jenny Sanford's name as a potentially formidable contender for the seat. One said it's hers if she wants it, citing advantages -- name recognition and a likely ability to raise money -- that would be especially important in the context of a fast special election.
-- State Sen. Larry Grooms: Grooms ran for governor in 2010 and should have decent name recognition. Ideologically, he's closely aligned with Scott (a South Carolina Republican called him "a tea party guy, to say the least.") The Charleston Post & Courier reported that he contacted Charleston County GOP chair Lin Bennett to express interest in a bid -- even before Scott was chosen for the Senate seat.
-- State Rep. Chip Limehouse: Limehouse expressed interest in a run to Charleston County GOP chair Lin Bennett prior to Scott being chosen. Limehouse's father was state DOT chair, and one Republican described him as being from "old guard Charleston money."
-- State Sen. Tom Davis: The former chief of staff to Mark Sanford, Davis has also been mentioned as a potential primary challenger to Sen. Lindsey Graham. he's from the Beaufort part of the district. Davis endorsed Ron Paul in the presidential race, which one South Carolina Republican thought could be a liability in the race.
-- State Sen. Paul Thurmond: The late Sen. Strom Thurmond's son lost to Scott in the 2010 primary and was just elected to the state Senate; he could be accused of seat-hopping if he ran again -- but he has declined to rule out a bid.
-- State Rep. Jimmy Merrill: Merrill is the House Majority Whip.
-- Carroll Campbell: Campbell also lost to Scott in the 2010 primary. He's the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr.
Other names floating around include state Sen. Chip Campsen (whose father was also a state senator) Scott's chief of staff Joe McKeown (a former Charleston County Council member), state Rep. Peter McCoy, Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey, and Charleston-area solicitor Duffie Stone.