Mulvaney: ‘I’ll do it,’ if asked to replace DeMint

dworthington@heraldonline.comDecember 6, 2012 

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s name is on the unofficial short list to replace South Carolina’s departing U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.

Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, said Thursday he is interested in the job, but said the decision rests with Gov. Nikki Haley and it would be inappropriate to influence that process.

“If she asks me to do it, I’ll do it,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney has previously said he might run for the Senate seat in 2016 when DeMint had said he would retire.

Also on the unofficial list is U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, and like Mulvaney, is about to start his second term in Congress. If appointed, Scott would be the first African-American senator from South Carolina since Reconstruction and the only African-American in the U.S. Senate. The list also includes Haley, putting the governor on the hot seat, political observers say.

“It’s an issue of Haley’s personal ambition and the Republican Party’s ambitions clashing,” said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop professor and political pollster. “What’s her next step?” Huffmon asked.

According to the Associated Press, Haley told a Greenville talk radio station, “I will not be appointing myself. That's not even an option.” Haley has three options.

She can appoint a successor. Mulvaney and others say the successor needs to be familiar with Congress. “These are difficult times, and we need a senator right away,” Mulvaney said.

She can step down as governor and have her successor, current Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, appoint her to the U.S. Senate. Former Democratic Gov. Donald Russell engineered that deal in 1965 when U.S. Sen. Olin Johnson, who had served South Carolina for 20 years, died in office. Russell then lost the seat in a special election.

Haley can appoint a successor, but reach an understanding that that person would be a “caretaker” who would agree not to run in the special election in 2014 to fill the Senate seat.

Glenn McCall, chairman of the York County Republican Party and a national committeeman, favors this option because it creates a “level playing field” in the 2014 special election.

Mulvaney said whoever is selected to replace DeMint faces challenges.

DeMint, Mulvaney said, spoke with a national voice, he was the “thought leader” of the conservative movement. With critical fiscal discussions upcoming, Mulvaney said he was counting on DeMint’s leadership.

Huffmon said DeMint was less interested in leadership.

“DeMint wasn’t interested in governance if it required compromise. He was pushing his ideological agenda,” Huffmon said.

Mulvaney and Huffmon agree that taking over as president of the Heritage Foundation will give DeMint a national stage for his views.

“His voice could be louder at the Heritage Foundation. I hope it is as effective,” Mulvaney said.

Huffmon’s own short list of possible successors includes Scott, Mulvaney, state Sen. Tom Davis and state Treasurer Curtis Loftus.

As for Mulvaney, Huffmon said, “It’s a seat he wants and a lot of people want to see him there.”

Working against Mulvaney is Haley’s future political ambitions, Huffmon said.

Both U.S. Senate seats from South Carolina will be on the ballot in 2014. Sen. Lindsey Graham is up for re-election.

If Haley wants to run in 2014, she would not likely appoint someone such as Mulvaney who would be a formidable candidate, Huffmon said. McCall said he could support Haley “100 percent” or Mulvaney as caretaker appointees.

Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said a caretaker appointment is the least attractive option. “Don’t send someone there that’s not thinking about re-election,” he said.

“You need to send someone the people can rely on.”

However, if Haley opts for a caretaker, Harpootlian said she should think outside the box and not use the appointment to reward someone who has served the Republican Party faithfully.

In the end, Harpootlian said, “she will do what’s best for Haley.”

In her statement on DeMint’s resignation Haley did not discuss how she plans to fill the seat.

Haley told a Greenville talk radio station she plans to pick someone who will fight for conservative ideas. She said she wouldn't let the process drag out.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066The Associated Press contributed

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