Sen. Jim DeMint: 'It's a good time to leave'

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina's junior Sen. Jim DeMint will resign from the Senate in January to head up Washington think-tank the Heritage Foundation beginning in January, according to a press release from the senator's office.

A statement from Senator DeMint's office reads:

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.

I'm leaving the Senate now, but I'm not leaving the fight. 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.

According to its website, the Heritage Foundation's mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

The Heritage Foundation's current president, Ed Feulner, was listed as earning $947,999 in 2010, according to the Washingtonian. Feulner, 71, had planned to step down to move into a part-time role with the foundation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In an interview with CNN, DeMint said it was a "good time to leave" because of the term limit he set for himself.

"I never intended to be a career politician," said DeMint. "I've played a roll in stocking the Senate with solid conservatives who are younger and brighter and better spokesmen that I am. And so I know I'm leaving the Senate better than I found it, with some real leaders. But, this is an opportunity to do more to get the American people behind them. If we don't do that it's gonna be hard to keep people here in Washington who are promoting the right ideas."

DeMint's resignation will now leave one seat from South Carolina's congressional delegation empty. According to law, Gov. Nikki Haley will have to appoint someone to the seat, and that person will be given the option to run in a special election in 2014 to fill out the rest of DeMint's term, which ends in 2016.

DeMint was elected to the Senate in 2005 after Sen. Fritz Hollings retired. He quickly became one of the Republican Party's biggest firebrands and one of President Barack Obama's loudest critics.

He ran for re-election in 2010 and easily defeated Democratic candidate Alvin Greene in one of the most infamous and talked-about Senate races in the country.

With the seat now empty, Haley now has the task of choosing from a long list of potential candidates. The governor released a statement shortly after the news broke. She has not yet indicated who her choice may be.

"U.S. Senator Jim DeMint has served South Carolina and the national conservative movement exceptionally well," said Haley. "His voice for freedom and limited government has been at rue inspiration. On a personal level, I value Jim's leadership and friendship.Our state's loss is the Heritage Foundation's gain. I wish Jim and Heritage all the best in continuing our shared commitment to America's greatness."

State Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly also released a statement, calling the senator a "conservative rock star."

"At the Heritage Foundation, he will be in an even greater position to spark revolutionary change. I commend his principled leadership and service to our state. Thank you, Senator," said Connelly in the statement.

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