(CNN) - Saying she was "convinced…he was the right U.S. senator for our state and for our country," Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina announced Monday she was appointing GOP Rep. Tim Scott as Sen. Jim DeMint's successor.
Speaking at the South Carolina state house in Columbia, Haley said the conservative Republican had "earned the seat" by virtue of his personality and record. Scott will become the Senate's only African-American member and the GOP's second African-American senator since Reconstruction.
DeMint announced earlier this month he would resign from his Senate seat by January 1 to lead The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank in Washington. Scott will fill the Senate spot until a special election takes place in November 2014, with the winner of that contest serving the remaining two years of DeMint's second term.
On Monday, Scott said he was grateful for God and for his mother, who raised him alone while working 16-hour days, and who he said "believed that sometimes love has to come at the end of a switch."
"And she loved me a lot," Scott said, adding she helped him build "strength and understanding" through her hard work and dedication to her children.
Haley's shortlist of contenders included Scott, along with Rep. Trey Gowdy, former state Attorney General Henry McMaster, former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford and Catherine Templeton, a conservative attorney chosen by Haley to head the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
In the days following DeMint's announcement, the GOP governor also jokingly hit back against comedian Stephen Colbert, who expressed interest in running for the seat in his native state.
Scott had emerged as a favorite of national grassroots conservatives. DeMint has long viewed Scott, a former state legislator who was first elected to Congress in 2010 with the help of tea party activists and national conservative groups, as a rising star and protégé.
DeMint said Monday he has been inspired by Scott since the first time he saw him speak in public, and that the country "needs those voices to encourage people there is a way out of quagmire we're in."
"Thank you for being willing to do this," DeMint said.
National tea party groups also approved of the choice - the Tea Party Patriots wrote Scott "has taken our core values seriously in the House and we have every reason to expect similar, principled behavior in the Senate."
In the days before making her selection, Haley said she would not consider a "placeholder" senator who would pledge to only hold the office until the special election, and on Monday Scott said he was looking forward to traveling the state ahead of the 2014 election to meet new constituents.
"The future is incredibly bright for America," Scott said. "We have our challenges, we have our things that we have to overcome. But boy does the future look great in South Carolina."
DeMint, a kingmaker among conservatives, is highly influential and well-beloved in the tea party movement, and has been a thorn in the side of establishment Republicans. In 2009, he was the first to endorse Marco Rubio of Florida in his 2010 Senate bid, at the time that the National Republican Senatorial Committee was backing Florida Gov. Charlie Christ.
He was also a powerhouse in the 2012 election. He held a highly-sought endorsement in congressional races and used his super PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund, to back tea party favorites in GOP primaries. Among his picks were successful Senate newcomers Ted Cruz of Texas, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Debbie Fischer of Nebraska.
"I know I'm leaving the Senate better than I found it with some real leaders," DeMint said, referring to his role in "stocking the Senate with solid conservatives."
– CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Sam Feist, Mark Preston, Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.
Good choice. He seems like a cool dude. Not too ,amy smart people around anymore. He seems to have his head on stratight.
Alan Keyes wasn't available?
It is not the messager, the problem is the GOP message.
Too bad Allen West didn't live in SC – he would have given Scott a run for his money!
Nikki Haley needs to grow a set. She doesn't seem to understand how she was and is being used by the GOP. List her as a vp candidate when the woman issue pops up, get her to say she disagrees with everything Obama does for women, get her to say that the GOP loves women... then they drop her like a sack of rotton tomatoes when they thought they had used her enough. Now she is told by the GOP she needs to appoint another puppet they have been using. When will they learn?
DeMint leaving certainly makes the Senate better. And it doesn't seem possible Scott could be anything but a step up. Maybe he'll even be civil.
Michael Steele – hand picked – couldnt win an election. Condi Rice, hand picked – couldnt win an election. We are going to see many minorities selected for office throughout the GOP in the next few years. i said it first! (and btw – i am a minority too! As much i i enjoy having fellow minorities in office, we feel it is a slap in the face to hand pick due to race only. that is like using Sarah Palin to win the women vote. she was a dolt. Women were smarter than that. well, most were, anyway
Just replacing one Tea Party loving wacko for another. Nothing will change. The GOP will be just as regressive obsessive about non-issues as ever.
Tomasine, how does he seem like "a cool dude?" did you meet him or are you just judging based on his picture?
Just replacing one Tea Party loving wacko for another. Nothing will change. The GOP will be just as regressive and obsessive about non-issues as ever.
PE said it a long time ago...don't believe the hype...it is a sequel. The GOP is desperate to show how diverse they are, and picking a token is a sure way to display how inclusive they are.
ok i give up
I Give up there is something terribly wrong with this state.
Yes Demint your leaving the Senate makes it a better organization.
Demint's sudden departure is a signal. There are few educated and wired on the economy as he is.
Republicans just don't get it. They point out the fact, when someone who is a minority is elected as a Republican, that means they aren't racist. However, if they really weren't racist, then it should not matter one bit whether or not the people they elect to office are minorities. Just the fact that it does matter makes it a race issue.
People running for Congress should be elected based on their qualifications, not their race or their gender. Only then is it not a race issue, and if so, then there should be no reason to point out whether or not they are a minority.
Republicans think that Democrats nominated Obama in 2008 because of his race. However, this was not the case. Democrats nominated Obama both times because they thought he was the best person for the job. This is how it should be, concerning both Democrats and Republicans. Maybe someday this will be the case in America, but probably not anytime soon, unfortunately.
Ah man! I wanted Colbert!
And @ kvjneuman, I'd like to remind you that all of the wackjobs that have done the mass shootings in the last century have come from your ilk of people. Even the punk in Connecticuit. The moral checks and balances of the left is straight out of revelations.
"Demint's sudden departure is a signal. There are few educated and wired on the economy as he is."
Now THAT is comedy.
Colbert would have been more fun.
More phony symbolism by the GOP. Its not just the party that needs diversity, its the message. He will lose just as Allen West did. I wonder if he knows he is just being used as a token the way Michael Steele and J C Watts were.