“My constituents know that being a Senator was never going to be my career. I came to Congress as a citizen legislator and I’ve always been determined to leave it as citizen legislator,” DeMint said. “South Carolina has a deep bench of conservative leaders and I know Governor Haley will select a great replacement.”

No reaction yet from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who can rest easier about a conservative challenge to his seat as the GOP focuses on filling DeMint’s chair in 2014. So far no strong candidates have expressed interest in a definite primary challenge to Graham, including House members who could potentially replace DeMint.

Graham announced he would speak on the Senate floor at about 12:45 p.m. EST about DeMint’s retirement.

Possible names to run two years from now are Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Another conservative favorite, particularly after the Fast and Furious hearings, could also see a surge in calls to run: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C).

Mulvaney said the news of DeMint’s resignation came as a surprise.

“Senator DeMint has been a strong conservative voice, and he leaves big shoes to be filled,” he said. “I have faith Governor Haley will appoint someone with the character, leadership, and conservatism Senator DeMint has provided South Carolinians for the past eight years.”

“I first want to thank Senator DeMint for the tremendous work he has done on behalf of South Carolina and the nation. His commitment to conservative principles leaves a true legacy, and I have greatly enjoyed getting to know and work with him over the past two years,” Scott said in a brief statement. “Looking forward, Governor Haley will now appoint a new Senator, and I know she will make the right choice both for South Carolina and the nation.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who could face a challenge of his own in 2014, thanked DeMint for his service.

“Jim helped provide a powerful voice for conservative ideals in a town where those principles are too often hidden beneath business as usual,” McConnell said. “There is no question in my mind that he raised the profile of important issues like spending and debt and helped galvanize the American people against a big government agenda.”


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