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December 06, 2012

Republican Jim DeMint Is Leaving the Senate

Posted in: South Carolina

Sen. Jim DeMint

In a rather unusual move, ultraconservative South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint (R) is going to resign at the beginning of next year. From the Wall Street Journal:

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.

Since South Carolina’s Republican Governor gets to name DeMint’s temporary replacement, this move is not going to change the composition of the Senate. Given the heavily Republican nature of the state, it is also unlikely that even with an open seat that Democrats will have a shot of picking up a Senate seat in South Carolina in 2014.

This move, though, still has very important political implications, particularly for South Carolina’s other senator, Lindsey Graham. There is currently some speculation that Graham could be vulnerable to a primary challenge. Having two Senate races take place in 2014 could save Graham from facing a top-tier opponent in the primary. It is possible that some ambitious conservatives in the state would decide instead to run in the special election, seeing it as the more promising option.

Graham may now feel safer agreeing to possible compromises with Democrats on a whole range of  issues, such as immigration.

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