Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading conservative voice in the Senate, will resign his seat in January to become the next president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, he announced on Thursday.
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” DeMint said in a statement.
“I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight,” he continued. “I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of DeMint’s resignation. DeMint will succeed Ed Fuelner, who has been president of the Heritage Foundation since 1977. Fuelner will depart in April.
“This is a crucial moment for America and for the conservative movement—and we are seizing it,” said Heritage Chairman of the Board Thomas A. Saunders. “Ed Feulner has made Heritage not just a permanent institution on Capitol Hill, but the flagship organization of the entire conservative movement.”
First elected in 2004 and easily reelected in 2010, DeMint has led the conservative charge in the upper chamber, a role he has embraced, and one which has often put him at odds with Republican leadership in the upper chamber.
Seen headed to his office near the Senate chamber Thursday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not respond to questions about DeMint, keeping to his tradition of ignoring reporter questions while walking the halls.
Prior to joining the Senate, DeMint represented South Carolina’s 4th District in the House of Representatives. Before entering politics, DeMint worked in market research, and he told the Wall Street Journal that he’s excited about taking Heritage Foundation research and working to “translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work.”
The responsibility to fill DeMint’s vacancy in the Senate will fall to his state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley. Haley will appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election in 2014. That means South Carolina will have two Senate elections in 2014, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) also up for reelection that year.
DeMint won praise from conservative leaders Thursday for his work in the Senate. The head of the Club For Growth, an anti-tax origination that has also often been at odds with Republican leadership, praised DeMint’s work in the Senate and wished him well in his next endeavor.
“Senator DeMint has done more to advance the cause of freedom and liberty in Congress than anyone else since his election,” said Club For Growth Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax Club for Growth, in a statement congratulating the senator. “We wish him nothing but the best in his new role at Heritage.”