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Tim Scott on Trump’s VP Short List: Potential Senate Vacancy in South Carolina

Tim Scott on Trump’s VP Short List: Potential Senate Vacancy in South Carolina

U.S. Senator Tim Scott is reportedly among the top contenders to be Donald Trump’s running mate, raising questions about the process of filling his Senate seat should he leave office. Scott, who has been considered a potential vice-presidential candidate since he withdrew from the Republican presidential race in November, fueled speculation with his on-stage endorsement of Trump two months later. His enthusiastic support has earned praise from Trump, who noted, “He did well (in the primary), but he wasn’t as forceful as he is, because he doesn’t want to talk about himself. So interesting,” during a February rally in North Charleston.

The anticipation may end on Thursday night, as Trump has hinted that he might announce his VP pick during his televised debate with President Joe Biden in Atlanta.

If Trump selects Scott and their ticket succeeds in November, Scott’s Senate seat would be filled in the same manner he was appointed in 2013. According to state law, the governor appoints a replacement for any U.S. senator who vacates their position before the end of their term. This interim appointment lasts until the next general election, which serves as a special election for the Senate seat.

In December 2012, then-Governor Nikki Haley appointed Scott to replace Senator Jim DeMint of Greenville, who resigned two years into his term to lead the Heritage Foundation. Scott, who had just been re-elected to the 1st Congressional District, was sworn into the Senate in January 2013, becoming the South’s first Black Republican senator since Reconstruction.

To retain his seat, Scott had to go through the election process in 2014. He won the GOP primary by an overwhelming 80-percentage-point margin and then defeated his Democratic opponent by 24 points in the general election. He won his first full term in 2016 and was re-elected in 2022.

If Scott vacates his Senate seat after the November election, Governor Henry McMaster would appoint his successor. South Carolina is among 37 states where the governor fills Senate vacancies with interim appointments until a general election. Of these states, 10 require the appointee to be from the same political party as the departing senator. Although South Carolina does not have this requirement, McMaster, a former state Republican Party chairman, is expected to appoint a Republican.

McMaster’s appointee would face a primary and general election in 2026 if they wish to complete the remainder of Scott’s term, which ends in 2028. When asked if he had potential candidates in mind, McMaster’s spokesperson, Brandon Charochak, stated, “It would be premature at this point to make plans.”

Scott’s office also declined to comment on the matter.

Historically, it is uncommon for governors to appoint themselves to Senate vacancies due to potential voter backlash. The only instance in South Carolina occurred in April 1965, when Governor Donald Russell resigned to appoint himself to the Senate following the death of Senator Olin Johnston. However, Russell was defeated in the 1966 Democratic primary by Fritz Hollings, who went on to serve as South Carolina’s senator for 38 years. When Hollings retired in 2004, voters elected Jim DeMint to succeed him.

The potential appointment process for Scott’s Senate seat underscores the political maneuvering that could follow a significant shift in South Carolina’s representation in Washington.

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