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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Jim DeMint Resigns From Senate

Matt Pressberg |
December 6, 2012 | 7:23 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Jim DeMint waves goodbye to the U.S. Senate. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Jim DeMint waves goodbye to the U.S. Senate. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a right-wing firebrand and icon of the Tea Party movement, announced Thursday that he will resign from the Senate, effective Jan. 1, to head the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank.

As the Associated Press reports, the Republican senator announced through a statement that he would be leaving elected office one day after being selected to replace founder Edwin Feulner as the president of the Heritage Foundation. DeMint, who is one of the least wealthy senators, is likely to earn an annual salary of around $1 million at Heritage, compared to $174,000 per year in the U.S. Senate, according to Business Insider.

DeMint was first elected in 2004 and won a second term in 2010, where his general election opponent was an unknown and unemployed non-politician, Alvin Greene, who won the Democratic primary under somewhat mysterious circumstances, although no evidence of wrongdoing was ever proven. Because his weak opponent and the political geography of the state made his status as the Republican incumbent tantamount to election, DeMint was able to campaign nationally for Tea Party-associated insurgent candidates like Sharron Angle, raising his profile as an ideological warrior for hardline conservative values. However, as the New York Times reports, his record in getting these like-minded candidates into office was poor, and almost certainly contributed to a loss of confidence in DeMint by Republican leadership.

The soon-to-be-former Senator's aversion to compromise put him in a tough spot after President Obama's re-election, which gave Democrats the upper hand in the ongoing "fiscal cliff" budget negotiations. As DeMint had been outspoken about his preference to remain part of a principled minority over building consensus, he was always going to struggle to reconcile his membership in a party prepared to cave on tax rates with his fanbase. The Heritage job provided him a soft landing spot, with which he pledged to provide "strong leadership in the battle of ideas," according to the Associated Press.

The governor of South Carolina, fellow Republican Nikki Haley, will appoint a successor who would then face a special election in 2014 to serve the remainder of DeMint's term, which expires in 2016.

South Carolina's other senator, Lindsey Graham, whose term also ends in 2016 and benefits from sharing the spotlight with another Senate race in the Palmetto State, is considered a more moderate Republican given positions he has taken on issues like immigration. This makes him vulnerable in a primary challenge from a more hardline conservative, the type of challenge DeMint often supported during his senatorial career.

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Jim DeMint here.

Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.



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