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Nikki Haley

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Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley
116th Governor of South Carolina
Assumed office
January 12, 2011
Lieutenant Ken Ard (R) (2011-2012)
Glenn McConnell (R) (2012-2014) Yancey McGill (D) (2014-present) Henry McMaster (R) (elect)[1]
Preceded by Mark Sanford (R)
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 87th district
In office
January 11, 2005 – January 11, 2011
Preceded by Larry Koon
Succeeded by Todd Atwater
Personal details
Born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa
(1972-01-20) January 20, 1972
Bamberg, South Carolina,
United States
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Michael Haley
(2 children)
Residence South Carolina Governor's Mansion (while in office)
Lexington, South Carolina (personal)
Alma mater Clemson University (B.S.)
Profession Accountant, Politician
Religion Methodism

Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley[2][3] (born January 20, 1972)[4][5] is an American politician and the 116th and current Governor of South Carolina. A member of the Republican Party, Haley represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010.[6]

In the 2010 South Carolina gubernatorial election, Haley was endorsed for the Republican nomination by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party movement.[7][8][9][10] On June 8, 2010, she finished first in the four-way Republican primary election with 49% of the vote, but fell short of the 50% required to avoid a runoff election. Haley won the runoff on June 22 with 65%,[11] and proceeded to win the general election by a 51–47% margin.

Haley is the first woman to serve as Governor of South Carolina. At the age of 43, Haley is the youngest current governor in the United States.[12][13] She is one of two sitting Indian American governors in the United States, the other being fellow Republican Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. She is also the third person who is not Euro-American to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia's L. Douglas Wilder and Louisiana's Jindal.

On November 4, 2014, Haley was re-elected to a second term as the Governor of South Carolina, a term that will expire in January of 2019.[14]


  • Early life, education, and business career 1
  • South Carolina House of Representatives 2
    • Elections 2.1
    • Tenure 2.2
    • Committee assignments 2.3
    • Caucus memberships 2.4
  • 2010 election for Governor 3
  • Governorship 4
    • Economic policies 4.1
    • Other policies 4.2
    • 2014 Re-election 4.3
  • Controversies 5
    • Ethics Fine 5.1
    • Racial commentary against Haley 5.2
    • Allegations of affairs 5.3
    • "Little girl" incident 5.4
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life, education, and business career

Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa[2][3] in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian Sikh family. Her parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, India. She has two brothers, Mitti and Charan, and a sister, Simran, born in Singapore.[15] Haley is a graduate of Orangeburg Preparatory Schools, and Clemson University with a B.S. in accounting.[16]

She worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company,[17][18] before joining her mother's business, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm, in 1994.[19] The family business grew to become a multi-million dollar company.[19]

Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998.[20] She was named to the board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Haley became treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003 and president in 2004.[20] She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital.[19] She also serves on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff's Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, President of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Chairman for 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign and is a member of the Rotary Club in Lexington.[21]

South Carolina House of Representatives


In 2004, she ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives for a district in Lexington County. She challenged incumbent state Representative Larry Koon in the Republican primary--the real contest in this heavily Republican district. Koon, who had served since 1975, was the longest-serving member of the House. Her platform was anti-tax and fiscally conservative with an emphasis on education.[22] In the primary election, Haley forced a runoff as Koon won just 42% of the vote. She placed second with 40% of the vote.[23] In the runoff, Haley defeated him 55%-45%.[24] She then ran unopposed in the general election. [25] She became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina.[26][27]

She was unopposed for re-election to a second term in 2006.[28] In 2008, she won re-election to a third term, defeating Democrat Edgar Gomez 83%-17%.[29][30]


She was elected chairwoman of the freshman caucus in 2005 and elected as majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly.[21] She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot.[31]

  • Friend of the Taxpayer Award, S.C. Association of Taxpayers (2005)
  • Leader in Liberty Award-Abate of South Carolina (2005)
  • Legislator of the Year Award, Centennial Foundation (2005)
  • Indian American Pride Award-Indian American Friendship Council (2005)
  • Palmetto Leadership Award from the S.C. Policy Council (2006)
  • Strom Thurmond Excellence in Public Service. and Govt. Award from the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women (2006)
  • Champion of Housing Award, Home Builders Association of S.C. (2007)
  • W. Mack Chamblee Quality of Life Award, S.C. Association of Realtors (2007)
Fiscal policy

One of Haley's stated goals is to lower taxes. Haley voted against a bill to override the governor's veto (when Mark Sanford was still in office) to place a surtax on every cigarette produced. The funds earned would be appropriated to smoking prevention programs and cancer research related to smoking.[32] She voted for a bill that raised sales taxes to six percent. The bill exempted sales tax on unprepared food such as canned goods. The same bill also exempts property tax on 'owner-occupied residential property' except for the taxes due from what is still owed on the property.[33]

Haley has said that funds allocated for public education can be utilized more effectively. She has proposed a plan that would determine a teacher's salary based not only on seniority and qualifications but also on job performance. This performance rating would be determined by evaluations and reports from principals, students and parents.[34] During her gubernatorial campaign, Haley stated that she would be in favor of school choice and more charter schools.[35] She has said that wasteful spending occurs when funds allocated for education sit too long in departmental accounts before being spent.

Haley supports barring legislators from collecting legislative pensions while they're in office. She believes the pensions should be based only on the $10,400 legislative salary instead of the salary plus lawmakers' $12,000 annual expense allowance. [36]

Immigration policy

Haley has stated that as the daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced.[37] She voted in favor of the law that requires employers to be able to prove that any newly hired employees are legal residents of the United States, and also requires all immigrants to carry documentation at all times proving that they are legally in the United States. The law was adopted, but is currently the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the United States Justice Department on numerous grounds, including claims the immigration law violates the Supremacy Clause. Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley, said, "If the feds were doing their job, we wouldn't have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level. But, until they do, we're going to keep fighting in South Carolina to be able to enforce our laws."[38]

Social policy

Haley is pro-life and consistently voted for bills that restrict abortion and bills that protect unborn children. She also voted for bills that allow abortions in circumstances in which abortion might be necessary to save the woman's life. Haley voted for the Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law in 2006, the Pre-Abortion Ultrasound law in 2007, and the 24-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2009. The Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law says that any act of violence against a fetus is like a criminal act against the mother. The Pre-abortion Ultrasound law requires the woman considering an abortion to look at an ultrasound image before she is allowed to have an abortion. In addition, the 24-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions bill would have required the woman to wait one day from the time of the ultrasound before she is allowed to have an abortion.

Haley also voted yes on some bills relating to abortion that were tabled or rejected, including the Inclusion of Unborn Child/Fetus in Definition for Civil Suits Amendment, Prohibiting Employment Termination Due to Abortion Waiting Period amendment, and Exempting Cases of Rape from Abortion Waiting Period amendment. The Exempting Cases of Rape from Abortion Waiting Period amendment would have allowed specific cases of women to not have to wait the mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion.[39]

Committee assignments

  • Labor, Commerce and Industry[40]
  • Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs

Caucus memberships

  • Freshman Caucus, 2005-2006 (Chair)
  • Lexington County Meth Taskforce
  • Sportsman's Caucus
  • Women's Caucus, 2007 (Vice Chair)[41]

2010 election for Governor

County-by-county results

On May 14, 2009, Haley announced that she would be running for the Republican nomination for Governor of South Carolina in 2010.[8] Haley had been persuaded to run by incumbent Governor Mark Sanford.[42] On November 11, 2009, she was endorsed by former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as Jenny Sanford, the incumbent first lady of South Carolina.[9][10][43] The Republican gubernatorial primary took place on June 8, 2010, and Haley captured 49% of the vote, necessitating a runoff election on June 22.[44] Haley won handily in the runoff vote.[45]

In October 2010 South Carolina pollster Crantford & Associates reported Haley barely edging Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in general election polling 45% to 41%.[46]

Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, over the Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen 51% to 47%.[47]


Economic policies

Haley supports lower taxes and opposes regulation. In inviting business to move to South Carolina she has said:

"What I'm saying is, if you come to South Carolina, the cost of doing business is going to be low here. We are go going to make sure that you have a loyal, willing workforce and we are going to be one of the lowest union-participation states in the country."[48][49]

Other policies

Haley signed a law cracking down on illegal immigration in June 2011.[50] She supports a law requiring photo identification at the polls.[51]

2014 Re-election

On August 12, 2013, Haley announced she will seek a second term during a rally August 26, 2013, at the BI-LO Center in downtown Greenville.[52]

Haley faced a challenge in the primaries for Republican nomination from Tom Ervin. However Ervin withdrew and then contested the 2014 gubernatorial elections as independent.[53][54]

As in 2010, Vincent Sheheen of the Democratic party was once again her challenger. Republican-turned-Independent Tom Ervin was also running in early stages of the contest.[54] The first public debate was held in Charleston on October 14th, between Sheheen, Ervin and Haley.[55] The second public debate in Greenville on October 21, pitched Sheheen, Ervin, Steve French, Bruce Reeves and Haley.[56] A week after the second debate, Ervin withdrew from the race and endorsed Sheheen.[57]

Haley was re-elected on November 4th 2014, with a 55.9 percent to 41.3 percent win, almost tripling her previous margin of victory over Sheheen in 2010 gubernatorial elections.[58] Her second term as governor of South Carolina expires in January 2019.


Ethics Fine

In July 2013, Haley was fined $3,500 by the State Ethics Commission and given a "public warning" for failing to report the addresses of eight donors during her 2010 campaign for governor. [59]

Racial commentary against Haley

On June 3, 2010, on the Internet political talk show Pub Politics, State Senator Jake Knotts, a South Carolina lawmaker and supporter of one of Haley's primary election opponents, Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, repeatedly referred to Haley as a "raghead" because of her Sikh background (male Sikhs wear turbans as part of their religious attire). Knotts said "We've already got a raghead in the White House, we don't need another raghead in the governor's mansion." The Republican state legislator later apologized for the slur, claiming that these remarks about President Barack Obama (who wore a turban as part of the mandatory uniform at an Indonesian elementary school, but is neither Muslim nor Sikh) and Haley were meant as a joke.[60][61]

Haley campaign manager Tim Pearson called Knotts "an embarrassment to our state and to the Republican Party." Jenny Sanford, wife of outgoing Republican governor Mark Sanford, reaffirmed her support for Haley stating that "I can't help but think that these attacks are being leveled at Nikki Haley because of the courageous stands she has taken over the years in defense of taxpayers and government reform - stands that offend many of the most powerful interests in state government. I am more convinced than ever that Nikki Haley is the best person to be South Carolina's next Governor."[62]

Allegations of affairs

On May 24, 2010, Will Folks, former press secretary for Governor Mark Sanford, claimed on his blog that he had an inappropriate physical relationship with Haley "several years ago".[63] Haley denied the claim, stating "I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage. This claim against me is categorically and totally false."[64] Folks attempted to substantiate his claim by releasing phone records that he said showed 700 calls between the two while Folks was working as a political consultant for the Haley campaign.[65][66] Folks claimed that he was "forced" to reveal the (alleged) affair himself, before Haley's political foes publicized it first (to sabotage her campaign).[67]

On June 3, 2010, Larry Marchant, a political consultant, made a statement alleging that he and Haley had a one-time sexual encounter. Marchant made his claim while serving as a consultant to Haley's rival for the governorship.[68]

In a June 2010 interview, Haley said that if she were elected governor and the claims were later validated, she would resign the office.[69]

"Little girl" incident

Following a trip to Europe to meet with companies that might invest in South Carolina, Haley was criticized for the $127,000 of taxpayer money spent on the week-long trip, including unnecessary luxuries such as five-star hotels.[70] The spending was reported in an article in The Post and Courier of Charleston by journalist Renee Dudley.[70] While interviewed on The Laura Ingraham Show, Haley said, "God bless that little girl at The Post and Courier. I mean her job is to try and create conflict. My job is to create jobs. In the end I'm going to have jobs to show for it." Haley was then attacked for that statement, for which she later apologized while acknowledging her poor choice of words.[70][71]

Personal life

Haley was born and raised as a Sikh. On September 6, 1996, she married Michael Haley in both a Methodist church ceremony and a Sikh gurdwara.[72] Haley identifies herself today as a Christian,[73] but attends both Sikh and Methodist services out of respect for her parents' culture.[74][75] She sits on the board for Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church.[76]

Her husband is a federal employee with the United States Department of the Army and an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and was sent on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in January 2013.[77][78][79] The couple have two children, Rena and Nalin.[80][81] Haley's brother Mitti was an active duty officer who served in the U.S. Army for 20 years.[82]


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  33. ^ "Project Vote Smart". Sales and Property Taxes. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
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External links

  • Governor Nikki Haley official state website
  • Nikki Haley for Governor
  • Nikki Haley at DMOZ
  • Nikki Haley – The First Indian-American Woman Governor, SpeakBindas
South Carolina House of Representatives
Preceded by
Larry Koon
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 87th district

Succeeded by
Todd Atwater
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mark Sanford
Republican nominee for Governor of South Carolina
2010, 2014
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Mark Sanford
Governor of South Carolina
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joe Biden
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within South Carolina
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise John Boehner
as Speaker of the House of Representatives
Preceded by
Martin O'Malley
as Governor of Maryland
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside South Carolina
Succeeded by
Maggie Hassan
as Governor of New Hampshire
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