Sen. Jim DeMint resigns to head Heritage Foundation
By taking over The Heritage Foundation, Sen. Jim DeMint can infuse the leading conservative organization with a Tea Party philosophy, political observers said Thursday.
DeMint, 61, a South Carolina Republican, surprised many people by announcing he would leave the Senate in January. Fewer were shocked by his decision to become president of the Washington-based policy group.
“Jim was always more about ideas and less about politics,” said Bruce Haynes, a managing partner of Purple Strategies, a political consulting firm in Virginia. “To see Jim want to put his hands on the steering wheel of one of the biggest engines in the conservative movement makes sense.”
A founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, DeMint was a star of the grassroots movement that rose from the 2008 election and public anger over the federal health care law.
“I'm leaving the Senate now, but I'm not leaving the fight,” DeMint said in a statement, adding that the “conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas.”
In the Senate since 2005, DeMint won re-election in 2010. He served three terms in the U.S. House, and ran a research and marketing business for 20 years.
“It's hard to identify someone who is more associated with Tea Party positions in the Senate,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. “From a Tea Party perspective, that's a pretty big void to fill by any member.”
South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley will appoint someone to fill DeMint's seat until a special election in 2014 for the remainder of DeMint's term, until 2017.
The Republican Party lost two Senate seats in the November election. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah likely will continue to push Tea Party Caucus views in the chamber.
DeMint's presence at The Heritage Foundation could bolster the Tea Party movement while influencing the conservative group's thinking, said Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College in Lackawanna County.
“There's no doubt there's going to be a change in the tone of The Heritage Foundation,” he said, “and it does give the Tea Party more of a stable presence in the political dialogue.”
DeMint will take over at Heritage on April 3, succeeding Edwin J. Feulner, a founder who has been its president for 35 years.
Heritage operated with an $80 million budget in 2010 and paid Feulner more than $1 million that year, according to its latest IRS filings. By comparison, a U.S. senator made $174,000 this year.
Speaking at a Heritage event in October, DeMint credited the foundation and its policy papers with helping him develop his political thoughts and inspiring his involvement in public service.
“It was the Heritage papers and what they did that drew me into the process,” he said. “It got me interested.”
In a statement, Heritage Chairman Thomas A. Saunders praised DeMint's “passion for rigorous research, his dedication to the principles of our nation's founding, and his ability to translate policy ideas into action.”
Heritage officials wanted a leader who would carry on the organization's founding ideals, spokesman Jim Weidman said.
“It's the dedication to conservative principles that has been lodestar for DeMint as a politician and that has always been lodestar for Heritage as a policy shop,” Weidman said.
Though the move to Heritage could be considered a horizontal shift from elected leadership to directing public policy, it could be catalytic for conservative thinking, said Steven Peterson, a politics professor at Penn State University in Harrisburg.
“I find it kind of an interesting switch,” Peterson said. “The Heritage Foundation clearly is conservative, but I'm not sure I would have said it's kind of ‘Tea Party conservative.' DeMint coming in as a key figure may well signal something.”
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or email@example.com.
Add Andrew Conte to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins see Stars, blanked by Dallas in opening game
- Starkey: Pirates gaining bad big-game rep
- A field day on social media as Pirates’ Rodriguez attacks Gatorade cooler
- Pirates notebook: Fastball command issues hurt Cole against Cubs
- Steelers hoping to establish run early against San Diego
- Steelers quarterback Vick getting more acquainted with offense
- Officials: 1 dead, 3 wounded in Northern Arizona University shooting
- Kennametal HQ relocation rankles Westmoreland County business leadership
- Upper St. Clair lifeguard ordered to stand trial for rape of female lifeguard
- Clerical error blamed as Armstrong inmate is released
- Environmental watchdog sues world’s largest steelmaker over Pennsylvania pollution