COLUMBIA -- Gov. Nikki Haley has ordered a special election to fill the congressional seat being vacated as Tim Scott becomes South Carolina's next senator, said her spokesman Rob Godfrey.
Haley signed the executive order Wednesday, which sets the timeline for the special election.
"Gov. Haley expects there will be a spirited race with many candidates, and she hopes voters will choose a good conservative in the Tim Scott tradition," Godfrey said.
Scott officially resigned from his coastal 1st District seat, which includes Beaufort County, in a letter dated Dec. 28, with an effective date of Jan. 2.
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Haley named Scott on Dec. 17 as her choice to replace resigning Sen. Jim DeMint, who is leaving office to take the helm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Haley's appointment lasts until 2014, when South Carolina's first black U.S. senator will face a special election to fulfill the remaining two years of DeMint's term.
Haley's order means party primaries for Scott's former seat from the district will be March 19. Any necessary runoffs would be April 2. The general election will be May 7.
The state Election Commission estimates the special election will cost between $800,000 and $1 million. The agency does not have money in its budget for that and is working with the state budget office to determine how to fund it, said agency spokesman Chris Whitmire.
Candidates can file for the seat between Jan. 18 and Jan. 28.
The field of GOP contenders is expected to be large. State GOP Party Chairman Chad Connelly has said 14 Republicans had expressed interest in running, as of Dec. 21.
Potential candidates include former Gov. Mark Sanford, who told the AP in an email Dec. 22 that he was seriously considering a run for his former congressional seat. Sanford represented the 1st District for three terms before being elected governor in 2002. The term-limited governor left office in 2011, after avoiding impeachment but being censured by the legislature.
The former governor would bring name recognition and money to the race -- two things especially important due to the short campaign season and wide-open field. The question is whether voters are willing to welcome him back into politics, three years after he returned from a five-day disappearance from the state to confess to having an affair with a woman in Argentina. They became engaged last year.
Chris Drummond, a longtime confidant of Sanford's who served as his communications director from 2001 to 2005, joined Teddy Turner's campaign for the seat Wednesday.
Drummond, a Charleston resident and former news director for Charleston TV affiliates, is working to develop communications strategy for Turner, son of media mogul Ted Turner, and will work as a senior adviser, according to a news release from Turner's campaign.
Drummond said Sanford approached him about working for his campaign should he decide to run. But Drummond chose to work for Turner's campaign instead because Sanford is still undecided.
"He's still considering what to do, so I decided to look at other options," Drummond said.
State Democratic Party executive director Amanda Loveday said a handful of Democrats have expressed interest in running.
The 1st Congressional District -- redrawn last year following the U.S. Census -- includes parts of Beaufort, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley counties.
Island Packet reporter Gina Smith contributed to this report.