Big news this morning as one of the most stalwart conservative voices in the US Senate is stepping down. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who was last elected in 2010, will leave the Senate to take over at the Heritage Foundation:
South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. DeMint will leave his post as South Carolina’s junior senator in early January to take control of the Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of about $80 million.
Sen. DeMint’s departure means that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, will name a successor, who will have to run in a special election in 2014. In that year, both Mr. DeMint’s replacement and Sen. Lindsey Graham will be running for reelection in South Carolina.
Mr. DeMint was reelected to a second term in 2010. The 61-year-old senator had announced earlier that he would not seek a third term.
Mr. Feulner, who is 71 and planned to step down, is to be named chancellor of Heritage, a new position, and will continue in a part-time capacity as chairman of the foundation’s Asian Studies Center.
DeMint has been a controversial figure, even among Republicans. He once said that he’d rather have a minority of “30 rock-ribbed conservatives” in the Senate than a majority with less conservative members. To that end, he’s been very active in promoting conservative candidates around the country, with mixed results. He was firmly behind Senator Rand Paul’s ultimately victorious challenge to the Republican establishment in Kentucky, but he was also behind the disastrous Christine O’Donnell candidacy in Delaware.
In the last cycle DeMint and his people were sniffing around North Dakota for a challenger to Rep. Rick Berg who had announced his candidacy for the Senate, but ultimately decided to leave the race alone when the only alternative they seemed to find was perennial candidate Duane Sand.
DeMint ruffled feathers in the Senate. No doubt he’ll continue to do so at what is perhaps the most influential conservative organization in America.