Sen. Jim DeMint to leave Senate in January - FOX Carolina 21

Sen. Jim DeMint to leave Senate in January

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U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint talks to FOX Carolina after a meeting in Greer. (File/FOX Carolina) U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint talks to FOX Carolina after a meeting in Greer. (File/FOX Carolina)
WASHINGTON (FOX Carolina) -

South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint will leave his post in January, according to a release from his office Thursday morning.

According to the release, DeMint is leaving his seat to become president of The Heritage Foundation, the largest conservative think tank in America.

"It's been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in [the] United States Senate for the past eight years," DeMint said in a statement. "Now, it's time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America's future."

On the Senate floor, the senior senator from South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham, called DeMint an effective voice in the Senate who fought strongly and passionately for his positions.

"I think Jim understood that if we don't make some changes, and make them quickly, we are going to lose our way of life," Graham said.

"Jim and I have known each other for almost 20 years now and I think we've done a pretty darn good job for South Carolina, at times playing the good cop, the bad cop but always trying to work together," Graham continued. "What differences we've had have been sincere and that's the word I would use about Senator DeMint."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who must now appoint the senator's replacement, said DeMint has served the national conservative movement exceptionally well.

"His voice for freedom and limited government has been a true inspiration," Haley said in a statement. "On a personal level, I value Jim's leadership and friendship."

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, Dist. 4, called DeMint more than a congressional colleague.

"He has been a friend dating back to 1998 when I met him during his initial run for Congress," Gowdy said in a statement. "He has been a mentor for scores of conservatives at all levels of government."

Gowdy's colleague, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Dist. 3, said DeMint was a conservative champion and dedicated public servant.

"Jim's leadership and voice will be deeply missed in the United States Senate and in South Carolina," Duncan said in a statement. "I'm excited for him as he begins his new role with the Heritage Foundation, and grateful that he's continuing the fight in other ways."

DeMint was elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2004 and 2010.

The question now becomes, who will Haley appoint as DeMint's successor?

Political analyst Chip Felkel, who worked as a manager on DeMint's congressional re-election campaign in 2002, said many people will be jockeying for the job.

SLIDESHOW: Possible Sen. Jim DeMint replacements

Among some of the names being floated are U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, and former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. Felkel said he believes former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins would be a good fit.

According to state law, whoever Haley names as DeMint's replacement will have the option to run in a special election held in 2014 - the same year that Graham's current term ends.

"You'll have a free-for-all in terms of a primary," Felkel said. "You'll now have two U.S. senators up in 2014."

If DeMint's replacement runs and wins the 2014 special election, that person would finish out the remainder of the senator's term, which ends in 2016.

Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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SIDEBAR - Jim DeMint

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Born in Greenville, SC, on Sep. 2, 1951.Attended school at Christ Church Episcopal, Wade Hampton High and the University of Tennessee.In 1983, founded the DeMint Group, a marketing research firm.Elected More>>

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