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Senator DeMint resigns to head conservative group

COLUMBIA, South Carolina -- Sen. Jim DeMint, a powerful Republican closely identified with the anti-tax tea party movement, announced that he is resigning his Senate seat to lead a conservative think tank, in an abrupt retirement that reverberated through a soul-searching party.

DeMint, who antagonized party leaders and challenged centrist veterans he didn't view as conservative enough, said Thursday he would step down on Jan. 1 to helm the Washington-based Heritage Foundation while continuing the conservative fight.

The resignation of DeMint, 61, will not affect the Senate's makeup, because the state's Republican governor gets to appoint his successor.

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