Gov. Nikki Haley will likely wait until next week to appoint the successor of departing Sen. Jim DeMint, prolonging through the weekend the speculation over who that may be.
“No U.S. Senate appointment news today,” Haley press secretary Rob Godfrey tweeted Thursday morning. Since Fridays are usually reserved for bad news, that means we likely won’t know who will be South Carolina’s next senator until next week.
In the meantime, Gov. Haley’s short list of candidates has been narrowed down to five finalists in the political game show. U.S. Reps. Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, former Attorney General Henry McMaster, former first lady Jenny Sanford, and DHEC Director Catherine Templeton are all in the running to receive Haley’s senatorial rose, while possible candidates such as Chad Walldorf, Katon Dawson and Haley herself have already been voted off the island.
DeMint reportedly favors Scott as his replacement, but it remains to be seen whether Gov. Haley actually follows his recommendation. The endorsements of McMaster and Sanford were instrumental to the governor’s victory in 2010, and Templeton has been a Haley loyalist from the start.
Scott would become the only African-American in the Senate if nominated, and the first black Republican senator since Reconstruction. Sanford or Templeton would become South Carolina’s first female senator, so all three choices would help boost the Republican Party’s overall problem with diversity. Gowdy is making a name as a combative partisan Republican in the same manner as DeMint, which would fulfill Haley’s pledge to appoint someone similar to the outgoing senator.
Gov. Haley has also said that “experience doesn’t matter” when it comes to being a United States senator, leaving open the possibility of a legislative newcomer like Sanford or Templeton. This directly contradicts the Republican Party’s main argument against Barack Obama back in 2008, of course, but let’s not get technical.
Meanwhile, some state lawmakers want to eliminate the governor’s power to appoint new senators altogether. While current state law allows an appointed senator to serve for two years before a special election, Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Lexington) has introduced a bill that would require all Senate vacancies to be filled by special election.
“This proposed legislation is not intended in any way as a criticism of Governor Haley or any of the outstanding leaders she is apparently considering for appointment to the United States Senate,” Quinn said in a statement. “I am certain they would all do a fine job. My concern is the lack of public involvement in the process of selecting a person to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate.”
South Carolina is one of only a few states which allows the governor to appoint new senators. We’ve already seen how such a process can be easily corrupted, in the case of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to sell the seat vacated by President Obama, and Quinn wants to prevent such a situation from happening in the Palmetto State as well.
“Any way we fill those vacancies will have flaws,” he said. “But we must not dilute the people’s right to choose their representation at the ballot box. It is a fundamental right in our American system of governance.”
UPDATE: If you’re wondering what the governor’s office is up to today… The answer is opposition research on Stephen Colbert. Really: