US

Who is Tim Scott? Republicans’ only black senator launches 2024 presidential bid

Who is Tim Scott? Republicans' only black senator launches 2024 presidential bid

The Republican Party’s only black senator Tim Scott has launched his bid to become its candidate for the 2024 presidential election.

Mr Scott filed his candidacy for the GOP nomination on Friday but kicked off his campaign officially with a speech to supporters in his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina on Monday.

The 57-year-old South Carolina senator is the highest profile Republican to officially take on Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination so far.

“Joe Biden and the radical left are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb,” Scott said. “And that is why I am announcing today that I am running for president of the United States of America.”

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Tim Scott campaign workers in North Charleston on Monday

Only black politician to ever serve in both houses

Mr Scott’s political career has seen him make history on various counts.

Not only is he the sole black Republican in the US Senate, he is also the first black person ever to serve in both chambers of Congress.

More on Us Election 2024

Only 11 black people have ever served in the US Senate. Currently the other two are Democrats Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Raphael Warnock (Georgia).

He started off as a Democrat, however, when volunteering on the congressional campaign trail for Mark Sanford in South Carolina’s 1st district in 1994.

Inspired to run for a seat on Charleston’s County Council, he approached the local party, but was told to “get in line”, he revealed in an interview with Politico.

Instead he ran for the Republicans and in 1995 became the first black Republican to hold any political office in South Carolina since 1902.

In 2009 he was elected to the South Carolina statehouse, two years before getting a seat in the House of Representatives in 2011.

The following year when South Carolina’s senator Jim DeMint retired, the then state governor Nikki Haley appointed him as his replacement.

Ms Haley is now Mr Scott’s rival for the 2024 nomination.

Tim Scott
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Tim Scott is the first black senator to serve in both chambers of Congress

Campaign ‘never about race’

Mr Scott is presenting himself as an antidote to the traditional rhetoric around race in the US.

He refused an invitation to join the Congressional Black Caucus in 2010, saying: “My campaign was never about race.”

Instead he chose the Women’s Caucus because he is the “product of a powerful single mother”.

In a speech in 2021, he said that while he has “experienced the pain of discrimination‚Ķ America is not a racist country”.

At a Black History Month event in February, he said: “I’m not here to suggest that things could not get better and I’m going to work every single day to make sure that all Americans play on a level playing field.

“But today is not 1865 … We have made tremendous progress, and it’s time that we as a people celebrate the progress we are making.”

In his recent Politico interview he said he experienced “more racism” at times from his black friends – for not “meeting the expectation of the groupthink” at school.

He also revealed he has been stopped by police officers guarding the Capitol who didn’t know who he was.

Taking on Trump

Mr Scott has joined Ms Haley, the woman who helped him get into the Senate, and Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas’ former governor, in the race to rival Joe Biden for the next election.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is likely to announce his candidacy in the coming days.

Donald Trump

The South Carolina senator has avoided being overly critical of his main rival Donald Trump.

But after Trump’s comments on the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville – that there were “very fine people on both sides” – he said the the -president had “compromised his moral authority to lead”.

Trump is ahead in the polls, but Mr Scott is popular with donors, including billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and voters in South Carolina.