US senator resigns to head conservative group
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) - Senator Jim DeMint, a powerful Republican closely identified with the anti-tax tea party movement, has announced that he is resigning his Senate seat to lead a conservative think tank, in an abrupt retirement that reverberated through a soul-searching party.
Mr DeMint, who antagonised party leaders and challenged centrist veterans he didn't view as conservative enough, said he would step down on Jan. 1 to helm the Washington-based Heritage Foundation while continuing the conservative fight.
The resignation of Mr DeMint, 61, will not affect the Senate's makeup, because the state's Republican governor gets to appoint his successor. But it comes at a time of introspection for Republicans, with a strong conservative element pitted against the establishment as the party tries to figure out its next moves after last month's defeat in the presidential race and the loss of congressional seats.
Some question whether Mr DeMint and the tea party movement pushed the party too far to the right, backing several Republican senate candidates who excited conservatives but ended up losing to Democrats. Mr DeMint sometimes infuriated fellow Republicans by picking sides in party primaries, bankrolling candidates with millions from his political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund.