Republican Senator and Tea Party leader Jim DeMint announced Thursday his abrupt decision to leave his South Carolina Senate seat for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with an $80 million annual budget.
DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as Heritage Foundation president (who will be named chancellor of Heritage), and South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley will take DeMint's seat in the interim until a special 2014 election.
“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in United States Senate for the past eight years," DeMint said in a statement. "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.”
Heritage Chairman of the Board Thomas A. Saunders told Heritage employees Thursday morning:
"Jim DeMint has shown that principled conservatism remains a winning political philosophy. His passion for rigorous research, his dedication to the principles of our nation’s founding, and his ability to translate policy ideas into action make him an ideal choice to lead Heritage to even greater success."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with Politico about DeMint's resignation.
“We’re sorry to see Jim go. He’s had a distinguished career,” McConnell said. “My wife [Elaine Chao] is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. She’ll be reporting to him.”
The Wall Street Journal spoke with DeMint prior to his announcement. The senator explained his new job would allow him to, as the Journal put it, "popularize conservative ideas."
"This is an urgent time," DeMint told the Journal, "because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections."
Here's a video of DeMint praising Heritage's influence: