On Monday when South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley announced that Tim Scott (R-SC) would be the replacement for Jim DeMint in the Senate Republicans cheered. Tim Scott just won his second term in the house, he had a 20 year history in South Carolina politics, as a Congressman he quickly moved from the Rules Committee to Ways and Means and seemed to actually learn the ropes in Washington faster than most. Oh, and Tim Scott also happens to be an African American (and a Republican) giving the GOP the symbolic salve they need after taking a multi-cultural beat-down in the 2012 election. And while Scott will soon be sworn in as the first African American Senator from the South since Reconstruction, and the first African American Republican in the Senate since 1978, he likely will have some company a lot sooner than he, and the status seeking Republicans would like.
Just over the horizon, say the next 18 months there is a very good chance that two other African Americans will be in the Senate as well, giving our upper governmental chamber a shocking dose of diversity in a relatively short period of time. The word is out that John Kerry (D – Mass) will be the next Secretary of State following Hillary Clinton and that will leave a big gaping hole in the Senate out of Massachusetts. While the state legislature has been changing the rules back and forth over the years as to whether the governor can replace a retiring, dying or promoted Senator it all boils down to this: Deval Patrick could either run, or nominate himself to replace John Kerry in the Senate relatively easily. Patrick won re-election handily, he is a star in the Democratic Party, and the recently ousted Scott Brown is the only Republican with even the slightest chance of challenging him. If Patrick decides that jumping to the Senate now is his best career option, he could likely prevent a nasty primary and by Summer of 2012 the number of African Americans in the Senate will have increased by 200% in less than 6 months. Then all we have to do is look a little further South.
New Jersey has a Senate race in 2014 and it’s all but guaranteed to Cory Booker if he decides to run for it. By all accounts Booker is a smart guy and ambitious, almost to a fault and has eyed either the Governor’s mansion or the Senate since the first time he ran for Mayor of Newark New Jersey in 2006. In fact, the Atlantic revealed that Booker’s campaign has owned the domains BookerforGovernor and BookerforSenate since 2010. Now that Chris Christie has become the most popular governor in the Universe a smart guy like Mayor Booker knows that challenging Christie for the Governor’s mansion would be stupid, especially when a Senate seat would be a much easier race. So boom, within another year Cory Booker moves from mayor to Senator, which would bring the African American total in the Senate to a shocking 3 out of 100 with two Democrats and one Republican.
The above scenarios are not idle speculation. Realistically, Tim Scott ascending to the Senate fifteen minutes after figuring out where the Capital cafeteria was is a lot more shocking than either Patrick or Booker being Senators. The real question will be, since we’re looking down the road 18 months, is what if any changes will having so many more black faces have, in the last few years of an Obama presidency? Fortunately we probably only have about 18 more months before we know the answer.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson