Washington — On a Saturday night following Shabbat, Nick Muzin arrayed on his dining room table what would turn out to be the winning strategy to elect the first black Republican to Congress from South Carolina in more than a century.
The next night at the same table in his Charleston, S.C., home, Muzin hosted his weekly Talmud class.
Associates say the duality typifies Muzin, the 37-year-old Orthodox Jewish dynamo now leading the effort by House Republicans to expand the party’s appeal following Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama last November.
The ascension of Tim Scott from the South Carolina statehouse to the U.S. House of Representatives – and last December to the U.S. Senate – is relatively well known.
First elected to the House in 2010 as a leader of the Tea Party, Scott won reelection last November before being tapped just a few weeks later by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jim DeMint. Scott’s quick ascendance, the rarity of his being a black Republican and his Tea Party stature has earned him national attention.
Less well known is the role of Muzin, the Toronto-born doctor, lawyer and Jewish scholar who has been instrumental in paving Scott’s way. Muzin managed Scott’s 2010 campaign and from 2009 until December was his chief of staff.
Though Muzin now is director of strategy for the House Republican Conference, he also heads Scott’s fundraising political action committee.
The close alliance – and friendship – between a black Tea Party Republican from the South and an Orthodox Jewish doctor-lawyer from Canada is a rarity in politics, and upends perceptions about how blacks and Jews interact, Muzin and Scott say.
Scott, 47, is the first to credit Muzin for his success. Without Muzin’s entreaties that Saturday night in January 2010, Scott may not have run for the Charleston-area House seat that opened with the retirement of Rep. Henry Brown.