DeMint leaving Senate to lead The Heritage Foundation

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is resigning from the U.S. Senate next year to lead The Heritage Foundation.

COLUMBIA (WACH / AP) - Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is resigning from the U.S. Senate next year to lead The Heritage Foundation.

DeMint's Washington office confirmed Thursday that the South Carolina politician is stepping down to become president of the Heritage Foundation, effective Jan. 1.

In a statement released Thursday, DeMint said, "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."

According The Heritage Foundation's blog, DeMint will succeed Edwin J. Feulner, who has led the foundation as president for the past 36 years. DeMint was unanimously selected as the organization's leader by Heritage's Board of Trustees.

"Jim DeMint has shown that principled conservatism remains a winning political philosophy. His passion for rigorous research, his dedication to the principles of our nationâ??s founding, and his ability to translate policy ideas into action make him an ideal choice to lead Heritage to even greater success," said Heritage Chairman of the Board, Thomas A. Saunders.

DeMint's departure from Senate means South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will name his successor, who will have to run in a special election in 2014.

The 61-year-old Republican was first elected to the Senate in 2004.

His former state director Luke Byars says the new role allows DeMint to effect change outside of the U.S. Capitol.

The political consultant says it's a vehicle for him to push and pull on conservative issues on a national stage.

Gov. Nikki Haley released the following statement Thursday:

â??U.S. Senator Jim DeMint has served South Carolina and the national conservative movement exceptionally well. His voice for freedom and limited government has been a true inspiration. On a personal level, I value Jimâ??s leadership and friendship. Our stateâ??s loss is the Heritage Foundationâ??s gain. I wish Jim and Heritage all the best in continuing our shared commitment to Americaâ??s greatness.â??

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)