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.
Asked how much that factored into her decision, Haley said “we should appreciate it and we should look at it from that standpoint” but Scott was appointed because he “earned this.”
“We want things because of what we look like or who we are,” she said. “We want things because of the results we’ve proven. And that’s certainly why he got this today.”
Scott struck a similar note when asked about the historical significance of his appointment. “Today I celebrate the fact that voters consistently and continuously vote on people that share their ideas.”
But he acknowledged his selection is meaningful historically.
“We ought to celebrate the fact that our nation continues to move forward with leaps and bounds, that South Carolina was colored in an inconsistent way from reality for so long and we see the opportunity to move forward as a nation and a state in a way that is exciting,” he said.