COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley planned to announce Monday a replacement for tea party favorite U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.
Haley was to announce her decision at noon at the Statehouse, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said.
State law gives the Republican governor sole authority to pick DeMint's successor. DeMint, considered the ideological godfather of the tea party movement, announced less than two weeks ago that he would resign Jan. 1 to take the helm of the Heritage Foundation, a national conservative think tank.
Haley's appointee will fill the seat until 2014, when voters will choose who will fill the remaining two years of DeMint's term.
A source close to the governor told The Associated Press last week that her five finalists are former first lady Jenny Sanford, U.S. Reps. Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy, former Attorney General Henry McMaster and state health agency director Catherine Templeton.
Haley said last week that while she's looking for a conservative fighter to replace DeMint, no one would be as conservative as him.
"There is no question that I'm looking for a conservative person to fill those shoes, but we are never going to find someone as conservative and staunch as Jim DeMint," Haley told reporters. "What I do think we'll find is someone who very much understands the state of South Carolina."
She said her decision process involved looking at candidates' philosophical beliefs and determining how they would vote on upcoming decisions. She also wants to make sure they want to seek the office past her two-year appointment.
Haley has ruled out sending herself to Washington or running for the seat herself in 2014.
"With the fiscal cliff, with the debt issue, with everything we're facing in state government, how are those people going to respond and how are they going to agree with what Jim DeMint would've done?" Haley asked. "And are they going to fight? We need some more fighters in Washington right now."
Haley said political experience was not a factor.
"It's not about time in office, which is the wrong way of looking at the government," Haley said.
Haley's choice could represent either the first woman or first black U.S. senator from South Carolina.
Though Sanford has never been in elected office herself, she ran her ex-husband's campaigns and was known to be his chief political consultant before he infamously disappeared from the state over Father's Day weekend in 2009. At a tearful news conference upon his return from Argentina, he confessed an affair, sinking his political career and his marriage.
Jenny Sanford endorsed and campaigned with Haley during her four-way primary for governor.
Templeton leads the Department of Health and Environmental Control, one of the state's largest agencies.
Scott was the state's first black Republican since Reconstruction. He was chairman of Charleston County Council and served a single term in the state House before being elected to Congress in 2010.
Both he and former solicitor Gowdy were re-elected last month to their second terms in Congress.
McMaster was state GOP chairman before being elected to two terms as attorney general. He was a frontrunner in the 2010 governor's race before Haley surged late in the primary campaign. He has been a strong ally since then.
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