WASHINGTON – In a sharp turn of events, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., announced today  he will leave the U.S. Senate next month to become president of the Heritage Foundation.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” he said in a press release.

DeMint’s change of career does not, however, mean he is leaving the fight for conservative values.

He declared on his senatorial website: “I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”

Appearing on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” today, the senator said that one of his top goals is to “focus on federalism.”

“We’ve got 25 states now with Republican governors and legislatures,” he said. “A lot of them are doing the right things, with being right-to-work states, cutting their taxes, whether it’s immigration reform, voter ID, education choice.”

According to the Washington Post, DeMint was unanimously selected as the Heritage Foundation’s next president despite rumors that former Dick Cheney aide David Addington was going to take the position.

DeMint will be the sixth president of the Heritage Foundation, taking over from one of the original founders and current president, Ed Feulner.

He has been a major force in the U.S. Senate for the last eight years and is considered a patriarch in the tea-party movement. He will be remembered as one of the most conservative members of the Senate, where he gave regular support to public prayer and homage to America’s Christian tradition, vehemently opposed illegal immigration and followed his conscious even when it caused him to conflict with Republican leadership.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reacted to the announcement on his Facebook page.

“I want to congratulate Senator Jim DeMint on becoming president of Heritage,” Paul said. “We will miss his strong voice for the Constitution in the Senate, but I believe that his voice will still resonate throughout the country. He leaves the Senate with more constitutional conservatives than when he came, and those of us he helped are forever grateful. Because of Senator DeMint’s tireless efforts there now is a significant voice for Liberty in the U.S. Senate.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey will appoint DeMint’s successor until a special election can occur in 2014.

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