Why Nikki Haley chose Tim Scott for the U.S. Senate

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

On Sunday night, Tim Scott got a phone call.

It was an invitation to chat with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

“She had lots of questions,” Scott, a Republican congressman, recalled Monday afternoon during a conference call with several reporters.

It was the first time the two Palmetto State Republicans had spoken about the state’s soon-to-be empty senate seat. But that conversation, Scott said, ended with Haley simply asking: “Do you want to be a U.S. Senator?”

Just hours later, during a noon press conference in Columbia, Haley introduced Scott to the country as the senator-designate from South Carolina.

“The one thing I knew was I wanted this process to be very dignified,” Haley said afterwards, in response to a question from The Daily Caller. “I wanted it to be very thoughtful.”

In choosing a replacement for Jim DeMint – the Republican senator who is leaving in January to take over the Heritage Foundation – Haley said she considered a variety of factors.

“I wanted to look at all aspects from philosophical beliefs to past votes to just the ability to communicate that would make South Carolina proud,” she said.

DeMint announced his resignation Dec. 6. Haley said she made up her mind “late last week,” which would have been about a week after the seat unpredictably opened up.

Haley said she was impressed how Scott has “shown leadership by moving through the ranks very quickly in the House and doing it without compromising his principles.”

She also said Scott has “shown great courage in the way that he fought against increasing the debt ceiling” and for fighting against the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against Boeing.

“I can tell you that it’s one that I’m very proud of,” Haley said of her decision. “It’s one that I feel very confident in, and it’s one I think will be great.”

Much has been made of the historical significance to her appointment of Scott. When he enters the Senate in January, he’ll be the only black lawmaker in the body. He’ll also be the first black Republican senator in more than three decades.