The Wall Street Journal delivers a startling announcement that Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be leaving the Senate in early January, only two years into his second term, to take over as president of the Heritage Foundation following the retirement of current president Ed Feulner:
In an interview preceding the succession announcement, Sen. DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. “This is an urgent time,” the senator said, “because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections.”
Mr. DeMint, who was a market researcher before he entered politics, said he plans to take the Heritage Foundation’s traditional research plus that of think tanks at the state level and “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.” He said, “We want to figure out what works at the local and state level” and give those models national attention.
Mr. DeMint, an active conservative partisan often at odds with his party’s leadership, says he will “protect the integrity of Heritage’s research and not politicize the policy component. Heritage is not just another grassroots political group.”
Still, the senator acknowledges that the political fires still burn: “This really gets my blood going again thinking about the possibilities. This is the time to elevate the conservative cause.”
The Washington Post relays a farewell from Club for Growth president Chris Chocola: “Senator DeMint has done more to advance the cause of freedom and liberty in Congress than anyone else since his election. We wish him nothing but the best in his new role at Heritage.”
From the official announcement at Senator DeMint’s website:
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in United States Senate for the past eight years, but 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.
“I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight. I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
DeMint has long maintained that he would not run for a third term. Speculation now begins as to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s choice of replacement for conservative stalwart DeMint. The new Senator would have to stand for a special election in 2014.
Update: Statement from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA): “Jim is not just a colleague; he is a friend and a mentor, and his departure will be a tremendous loss for the U.S. Senate and for the conservative movement. In eight years, he has personally led the effort to change the composition of the Senate for the better, and provided consistent and principled leadership in the fight for liberty and limited government. He will be missed. I???m confident he will continue to play an important role in the ongoing public debate about the future of this country, and I wish him the best in his new position.”
Update: I’m hearing that Rep. Tim Scott is DeMint’s choice for replacement. Tim Scott is a black Tea Party Republican. His tenure in the Senate would not be boring.