DeMint considers himself a conservative who believes in the principles of limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional family values.
U.S. senator. On November 2, 2004, Jim DeMint won the United States Senate seat that Democrat Ernest Hollings held for nearly forty years. DeMint’s victory gave South Carolina two Republican senators for the first time since Reconstruction.
DeMint was born on September 2, 1951, in Greenville, South Carolina, to Tom E. DeMint and Betty DeMint Batson. His mother was a single parent who raised DeMint and his three siblings. DeMint credits her with instilling in him a strong work ethic; he often says that she ran the family home like an army camp. DeMint graduated from Wade Hampton High School in Greenville. He then left South Carolina to attend the University of Tennessee, where in 1973 he earned a bachelor’s degree. After graduating, he married his high school sweetheart, Debbie Henderson. They have four children. DeMint later returned to school, completing an M.B.A. from Clemson University in 1981. He is active in the Presbyterian Church of America, serving as a deacon at Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church in Greenville.
Before entering politics, DeMint owned the DeMint Group–an upstate advertising, marketing, and planning firm. In 1992 he became interested in running for office while volunteering for Bob Inglis’s first campaign for the U.S. House. Six years later when Congressman Inglis ran for the U.S. Senate, DeMint took the opportunity to run for Inglis’s seat.
He won and served as South Carolina’s Fourth District congressman from 1999 to 2004. DeMint considers himself a conservative who believes in the principles of limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional family values. In the House he supported tax reform plans including a bill that would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and replace most federal taxes with a national sales tax. In Congress he introduced legislation to reform Social Security by allowing younger workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in private retirement accounts.
To become a U.S. senator, DeMint first won a crowded Republican primary in 2004, eventually defeating former governor David Beasley in a run-off election. Then in the general election he faced the Democratic candidate and state superintendent of education Inez Tenenbaum. The two battled it out in what the Columbia State newspaper described as “one of the nastiest campaigns in recent memory.” Both political parties and outside advocacy groups poured millions of dollars into the campaign, and DeMint won with fifty-four percent of the vote.