An interview with South Carolina’s Tim Scott: A black congressional candidate who thinks the Tea Party — not CBC — might be his kind of caucus

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Tim Scott will likely change the fact that there are no African-American Republicans in Congress, but don’t automatically count on him to join the Congressional Black Caucus when he does.

“I’ve thought about it,” the South Carolina congressional candidate said Monday during an interview on Capitol Hill with The Daily Caller. “But I haven’t come to a solid decision. I’m probably leaning against it.”

Yet there’s another caucus the staunchly conservative state representative from Charleston finds “intriguing and interesting.” That would be the Tea Party Caucus, founded last week for House members who believe in the ideals of the conservative movement by Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann.

“I’d love to see all the tenets of the caucus, but on the surface it’s certainly something that I wouldn’t say no to at this point,” Scott said.

Scott’s congressional run has been historical — and promises to make even more history when he faces a perennial losing Democratic candidate in his heavily-Republican district in November. In the primary, he defeated big names like Paul Thurmond, the son of the former Sen. Strom Thurmond, and Carroll Campbell, the son of another former well-known politician in the state.

If he wins the general election, he’ll be the first black Republican since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003 to serve in the House. He’d be the first black GOPer elected in the South in more than a hundred years.

But that narrative, he said, is much more appealing to news editors in Washington D.C. than to the voters in the Palmetto State’s first congressional district. “I think all news media sees it as an opportunity to create a headline. For us, it’s not really that interesting,” he said while beginning to smile. “I’ve been black for a long time.”

Despite endorsements from big names like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and his likely celebrity status upon reaching Capitol Hill if he wins, he doesn’t envision himself necessarily stepping into the role of national leader. “I see myself as a person who wants to serve the constituents within my district and find a way to move those who are not in our position philosophically to our position,” he said.

Few politicians in his state can probably claim a personal story like Scott’s. He grew up in poverty, but with a mom whom he said raised him with conservative values. He still thinks running for student council in 8th grade — and then flunking out of school in 9th grade — was a life-changing moment for him. He attributes his mentor, a Chick-fil-a operator, for teaching him about “the advantages of small business.”

Scott says his campaign is about the conversations South Carolinians are having around their kitchen tables, where voters are talking about jobs and the economy. “That’s the place where we have to make sure our message reaches,” he said. “If our message reaches the kitchen tables, we are in good shape.”

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