Scott Appointment Will Shape Two S.C. Special Elections
With the New York Times reporting that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will nominate GOP Rep. Tim Scott to fill resigning Sen. Jim DeMint's seat in the upper chamber, the state will now have to hold a special election for his House seat next year.
The special election for Scott's seat, in the heavily Republican 1st District, would likely attract a big field of GOP contenders. The Charleston Post & Courier has a long list of potential Republican candidates: State Sen. Paul Thurmond (the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's son), who ran against Scott in the 2010 primary, is not ruling out another run at the seat. Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey also wouldn't rule out a bid, along with former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford (reportedly on Haley's shortlist for the Senate seat) and former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kobrovsky, who ran in 2010 as well. And Charleston County GOP chair Lin Bennett told the Post & Courier state Rep. Chip Limehouse and state Sen. Larry Grooms contacted her to express interest in running.
The South Carolina Code sets out a precise timetable for special elections; Haley will not have to declare it for certain dates. The ten-day filing period for candidates to declare interest in Scott's open House seat will open on the third Friday after DeMint resigns. The primary will take place on a Tuesday 11 weeks after the resignation, with a runoff two weeks later if necessary, and the special election is set for the Tuesday 18 weeks after the vacancy occurs. That means the earliest date for the special election, assuming DeMint resigns in early January as he said and Scott resigns then as well, would be May 7.
The House special election will be in addition to a special Senate election that will be held for the remainder of DeMint's term in 2014. It's unclear who would want to challenge Scott, who is a historic choice for the seat: He will serve as the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction, and he will be the only African American currently in the Senate. He was reportedly DeMint's choice for the seat as well. Rep. Mick Mulvaney has already said he wouldn't challenge his colleague in a special election (and also ruled out a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham). Rep. Trey Gowdy, who was reportedly on Haley's shortlist, is close with Scott and has touted him as an excellent choice for the seat.
Haley is set to officially announce her choice for the seat at noon today.
The special election for Scott's House seat will be the third next year, joining the specials for former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat in Illinois and GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's seat in Missouri.