Thursday's announcement of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's resignation from the United States Senate to head up The Heritage Foundation left many Upstate conservatives disappointed.
"I'm shocked and honestly, disappointed," said S.C. Rep. Dan Hamilton, a Taylors Republican. "He's someone I've always looked up to as one of the few in Washington who has really stood up for freedom. He'll be a great loss. Hopefully, he'll use his position at The Heritage Foundation for the good of the cause in a greater way."
Hamilton said he believes the state has a great "bench" of conservatives like Tim Scott, Mick Mulvaney and other members of the Congressional Delegation from which Gov. Nikki Haley has to appoint a replacement.
SCGOP Chair Chad Connelly called DeMint a "rock star," and thanked him for his service.
"Jim DeMint is a small businessman who ran for Congress to change the way Washington works," Connelly said. "Without question, he succeeded. Senator DeMint is a conservative rock star. At the Heritage Foundation, he will be in an even greater position to spark revolutionary change. I commend his principled leadership and service to our state. Thank you, Senator."
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-4) said he hoped Haley would consider Reps. Tim
Scott, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan or Joe Wilson, the state's conservative members of the U.S. House.
"Jim DeMint was more than a congressional colleague," Gowdy said. " He has been a friend dating back to 1998 when I met him during his initial run for Congress. He has been a mentor for scores of conservatives at all levels of
government. He is simply put one of the most decent, kind, humble men I
have ever been privileged to know. I wish he and Debbie joy in this new
Still, the well-wishing was tempered by an overall sense of loss from conservatives in the Upstate. Tom Corbin, a member of the S.C. House of Representatives and an incoming member of the state's Senate, did little to hide his disappointment.
"I hope he does well on this new career, however, he will be greatly missed," Corbin said. "It saddens me. I think Jim DeMint is one of the most positive conservatives in the federal government in years, and I know I'll miss him a lot."
Corbin mentioned Duncan as a possible candidate to replace DeMint, but said he thought there were several qualified members of the Congressional delegation from which to choose.
Duncan addressed the issue of replacing the senator in general terms.
“Whoever takes Jim’s place in the Senate will have large shoes to fill," Duncan said. "I hope that person is committed to the same values of limited government, free markets, and individual liberties that Sen. DeMint has championed for so many years. I’ll be praying for Gov. Haley to select a leader who believes in the principles that Jim has fought so hard to defend.”
S.C. Sen. Lee Bright said he'd not been contacted about the opening, which while not altogether surprising, is noteworthy, given his recent considerations of vying for Sen. Lindsey Graham's seat. He also said he was surprised at the news of DeMint's departure.
"I was shocked as everyone else. I had no idea — I hadn't heard any rumors," Bright said. "He's done a tremendous job. He's been a real hero of the conservative movement. I hate to see him leave. You have to trust his judgment — but sometimes you don't always understand."
Chip Felkel, a conservative political consultant and longtime observer of South Carolina politics thinks DeMint may be reacting to the present political environment. "He realized that in the United State Senate he's a minority within a minority," Felkel said. "He doesn't have to worry about pulling punches now and he probably feels like he can have more impact for true conservatives."
Karen Martin, who heads the Spartanburg Tea Party says it's important to consider the big picture. "Overall it's great for conservatives, but there is a shock value of DeMint recognizing that Washington, DC is so broken even he can’t impact it within system. But he’s filled the Senate ranks with folks like Lee, Rubio, Toomey, Paul, and Cruz to carry the conservative message before he left."