With Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) leaving the Senate to lead the Heritage Foundation, the speculation on who South Gov. Nikki Haley will appoint to replace him is already churning.
The dynamics here are interesting. Because of his willingness to raise taxes, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a likely target for primary challenge in 2014. Many names have already been tossed around, but a vacancy shakes that up a bit because Haley could appoint one of Graham’s strongest challengers to replace DeMint, taking a strong challenger out of the mix, or even pick a placeholder.
There was talk this morning that Haley could just appoint herself, but FitsNews has shot down that idea, explaining, “she would first have to resign the governor’s office, meaning that S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell would technically have to make that appointment.” And because the two apparently have a contentious relationship, McConnell appointing her would be unlikely.
Over at National Review, Jim Geraghty has a good rundown of names being mentioned as potential candidates to replace DeMint:
Governor Nikki Haley is going to have a lot of options to choose from in the coming days or weeks:
- Congressman Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in Congress starting in January 2013. CNN is reporting that DeMint has indicated he would prefer Scott as his successor.
- Congressman Mick Mulvaney, a Tea Party favorite who pulled off an upset victory over longtime incumbent Democrat John Spratt in 2010.
- Congressman Trey Gowdy, who beat incumbent Bob Inglis in the 2010 primary in his district, who has proven a tenacious fighter on the Judiciary Committee and Government Reform Committee and sometimes feuded with the House Republican leadership.
- Former State Attorney General Henry McMaster, a former U.S. Attorney under Ronald Reagan who ran for governor against Haley in 2010 and endorsed her in the runoff.
- State Sen. Tom Davis, popular in his Low Country district and once frequently-mentioned as a possible challenger to Graham; surprised some Republicans by backing Ron Paul in the 2012 GOP presidential primary.
- State Attorney General Alan Wilson, the son of Rep. Joe Wilson. The younger Wilson was just elected in 2010 to a four-year term, and he may not be eager to leave so soon.
Rep. Joe Wilson has been asked about running for statewide office many times and indicated he’s happy with his role in the House.
FitNews also adds some other names and factors at play to the mix:
Establishment Republicans have made it clear that they want Haley to name U.S. Rep. Tim Scott as DeMint’s replacement, while fiscal conservatives are calling on Haley to name either U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney or State Sen. Tom Davis. Others are speculating that Haley may name former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster – another establishment Republican – or possibly Catherine Templeton, her choice to lead the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
Davis would be ideal, but he may be looking at a primary against Graham. Scott seems to be the likely appointee, though I’m surprised that he would be the pick of the GOP establishment — unless, of course, they see him as Graham’s biggest threat. But with other members of the House from South Carolina being mentioned, here is a look at ratings from some of conservative organizations.
As you can see, there isn’t much difference between these guys.