Nikki Haley (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Columbia, SC (WLTX, AP) - It's unknown who'll replace outgoing U.S. Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina.
But we do know this--it's Governor Nikki Haley's decision to make.
DeMint announced Tuesday that he'd leave the Senate after eight years to become the head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank.
South Carolina law mandates that Haley appoint his successor until a special election can take place. In this case, that would take place in 2014.
She told WORD-FM Thursday that she'd would appoint someone to fight for conservative ideas, and that she would not drag out the decision.
Already there's been plenty of speculation on who may get the job, but at this point, it remains just that: speculation. Still, some names are emerging as potential front-runners.
U.S. Rep. Tim Scott: Scott, the U.S. Representative who represents South Carolina's First District, has been mentioned as a man to take over for DeMint. Scott is a Tea Party favorite, and DeMint created the Senate's Tea Party caucus, so he might like that someone ideologically in-line with him takes his seat.
Henry McMaster: McMaster, the former South Carolina Attorney General and SCGOP Chairman, could be a contender. Haley and McMaster have worked closely since the 2010 gubernatorial primary, when McMaster threw his support behind Haley during the runoff.
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney: Mulvaney currently represents South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, a post he's held since 2011. A rising member in Congress, Mulvaney already has gained a lot of respect in conservative circles.
Or it could be someone entirely different. Perhaps Haley will select someone that no one could predict. Regardless of who emerges, 2014 is already starting to become one of the most interesting races in South Carolina political history. Voters were already set to decide if Sen. Lindsey Graham will be re-elected; now, they'll pick a second U.S. Senate seat. Add to that a gubernatorial election (Haley, if she stays in her current post, is up for re-election), and we could see contests that would lead many aspiring South Carolina politicians to throw their hats into the ring.
The Associated Press contributed to this report