CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ South Carolina state Rep. Tim Scott, elected this week as one of the nation’s first black GOP congressmen in years, says conservatives need to sell capitalism as a path from poverty.
Scott said Wednesday that before he goes to Congress in January he wants to develop a plan for “people who come from neighborhoods like I came from and simply sell them on the fact that this country is a place where you can rise to any level.”
Scott, 45 and the first Republican congressman from the Deep South since Reconstruction, knows what it is like to be poor.
Growing up in poverty in North Charleston, he later went to college and now runs a successful insurance business and has a political career.
Scott, a conservative endorsed by tea party groups and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, said during an Associated Press interview there’s a leadership void in conservative circles he hopes to fill.
“I think we have a responsibility to sell capitalism and entrepreneurship to folks in desperate straits,” he said. “If economically you feel yourself cut out of the American dream, I think it is our responsibility to go there and say it is alive, it is well and it is for you. Then it is their responsibility to do something with it.”
Since swamping Democrat Ben Frasier on Tuesday, Scott has fielded interview requests from across the country.
He and fellow black Republican Allen West of Florida go to Congress in January. The House has not had a black Republican since Oklahoma’s J.C. Watts retired in 2003.
Scott is the state’s first black GOP congressman since the 1800s.
“I think what it says about us as South Carolinians is it says we are more interested in the character and issues of the individual,” he said. “It says very little about your complexion, which, based on the evolution of South Carolina, is a very important and very positive statement.”
Scott, sitting in his insurance office in the city where the Civil War began, said he was concentrating on his business after weeks of campaigning and trying to find time to return about 200 phone calls and text messages that flooded in since his victory.
While the attention is flattering, “we haven’t done anything yet,” Scott said. “We are perfect in the preseason. The game hasn’t even started yet.”
But he said he’s looking forward to getting to Washington and begin efforts to rein in federal spending.
“What’s exciting for me is that in 2011 we will have an opportunity to actually prove that a conservative construct is more than a campaign platform,” he said.
Scott said he is willing to work, where possible, on issues with the Democrats.
“Democrats ought to be our opponents, not our enemies,” he said. “If we agree on the issues, we should work together on those issues. But sometimes we’ll say no. And I certainly expect that to be something that happens a lot on both sides.”