Some rather big news from Capitol Hill: Sen. Jim DeMint plans to resign early next month to take a job leading the Heritage Foundation, an influential D.C. think tank. The South Carolina Republican had previously said he planned to retire after his current term ended in 2016. His decision to step down now means that GOP Gov. Nikki Haley will have to name a temporary successor, who would then have to run in a special election in 2014.
The Wall Street Journal got the scoop in a pre-announcement interview:
DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. "This is an urgent time," the senator said, "because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections." Mr. DeMint, who was a market researcher before he entered politics, said he plans to take the Heritage Foundation's traditional research plus that of think tanks at the state level and "translate those policy papers into real-life demonstrations of things that work." He said, "We want to figure out what works at the local and state level" and give those models national attention.
Mr. DeMint, an active conservative partisan often at odds with his party's leadership, says he will "protect the integrity of Heritage's research and not politicize the policy component. Heritage is not just another grassroots political group."
DeMint's resignation means that voters in his home state will choose two senators when they go the polls in 2014. The state's senior senator, Lindsey Graham, is also up for reelection that year. The Heritage Foundation has an annual budget of right around $80 million.