Haley, who is of Indian heritage, is the first female governor of South Carolina; the scene took place last November, when she was visiting the Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar — perhaps not what you’d expect from someone who’s made her name as a Republican governor and a Christian convert.The 43-year-old, born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, turned to Christianity when she married her husband, Michael, in 1996.
Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley (born January 20, 1972) is an American politician and the 116th and current Governor of South Carolina. She is currently serving in her second term. A member of the Republican Party,
Born: January 20, 1972 (age 43), Bamberg, South Carolina
Nationality: United States of America
Spouse: Michael Haley (m. 1996-present)
Parents: Raj Kaur Randhawa, Ajit Singh Randhawa
Children: Nalin Haley, Rena Haley
Party affiliation: Republican Party (United States)
Gov. Nikki Haley on politics & race
Gov. Nikki Haley Interview On Women In Politics
Nikki Haley adjusted the bright pallu over her head, pressed her hands to her heart, namaste-style — and did something dangerous for a woman in politics: She started to cry. “It’s a very special day,” she said, choking up. Haley, who is of Indian heritage, is the first female governor of South Carolina; the scene took place last November, when she was visiting the Sikh Golden Temple of Amritsar — perhaps not what you’d expect from someone who’s made her name as a Republican governor and a Christian convert.
The 43-year-old, born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, turned to Christianity when she married her husband, Michael, in 1996. The brown-to-Christian narrative has taken hold in part because of Haley’s parallel in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal (born “Piyush” and Hindu). But Haley is made of contradictions. The second-termer attends both Methodist and Sikh services and was praised this summer for removing the Confederate flag after the Charleston shootings — though just last year, she refused to take down that same flag. (Haley herself didn’t comment, but her deputy chief of staff Rob Godfrey tells OZY “she couldn’t look her son or daughter in the face and justify that flag flying at the statehouse” anymore.) The daughter of immigrants, she’s tough on immigration and once listed herself as “white” on a 2001 voter registration card. When constituents questioned her faith, she switched from referencing God to, specifically, Jesus Christ.
But these seeming tensions have made her a compelling political character. After only four years in office, Haley’s name is being floated as a potential VP candidate in 2016. And her rapid ascent from humble state legislator to twice-elected governor is yet more proof of a Republican identity in flux. “She has an amazing narrative and just as much experience” as other possible VP contenders like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, George Washington University political scientist Lara Brown says. “Quite frankly,” she adds, “I think Haley should have gotten in the presidential race.” But perhaps by not entering the crowded field, she’s earning more respect and waiting to cash in on the inevitable “woman question” when the GOP has to face down Hillary. Were she offered a spot on the GOP ticket, Haley said at a September appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, “Of course, I would sit down and talk.”
Haley has cemented her reputation as a financial pragmatist by slicing away at taxes as ruthlessly as a box cutter at a post office — all while raking in jobs by lavishing tax breaks and economic incentives on companies that relocate to South Carolina. She faced off with Georgia (and won) while wooing a new Volvo plant and poached two major companies from nearby Charlotte, North Carolina. She’s earned her Tea Party credentials by opposing Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and signing a law that cut taxes on small businesses.
But governing the Palmetto State, with its meager nine electoral votes and clear partisan lean (about 54 percent of voters swung Republican during the last two presidential elections), does not necessarily make a national candidate, and watchers say she has lacked a certain luster. She signed an Arizona-style crackdown on immigration only to see it softened after a lawsuit from advocacy groups. Plus, her campaign promise to improve government transparency floundered after she herself was accused of dodgy tax returns and failing to report campaign contributions, among other things. She might not survive the scrutiny of a more thorough vetting process, says Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz. “She got some nice publicity after the shootings, but boy, there are some things lurking.” Like two allegations of extramarital affairs (one from a political blogger, another from a consultant to one of her rivals, during a downright dirty 2010 South Carolina primary that also featured an opponent calling her a “raghead”). Haley, for her part, denied the accusations and deftly wove the rhetoric into her narrative of an underdog being bullied by establishment forces. (“When you challenge the entrenched status quo, as the governor has, you make a lot of people mad, and they do whatever they can to try to stop you,” Godfrey tells OZY.)
That’s trademark Nikki vs. Goliath, touched upon often in her folksy memoir, Can’t Is Not an Option. She described her birthplace, Bamberg, as a community “that sprang up around” a water tank, and in small-town South Carolina, her differences showed. She was asked to play Pocahontas in the kindergarten Thanksgiving play because she was “Indian.” Her adult life was fairly average: economics degree from Clemson University, job with her mother’s upscale clothing firm and then president of two chambers of commerce and the National Association of Women Business Owners.
But much as she might emphasize the latter small-town story over her complex identity, it’s exactly her in-betweenness, her experience of being shuffled between black and white and other, that may be her greatest weapon. “She has a chance to speak to issues of race, issues of color, issues of gender in a way that no other Republican candidate can,” said Bruce Haynes, president of the bipartisan political consulting firm Purple Strategies, to Politico.
Which is a description that sounds less like Jindal and more like the current president of the United States.
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Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina, who won accolades for swiftly moving to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol after the June massacre of nine black churchgoers, sharply criticized the Black Lives Matter movement on Wednesday.
Citing the unrest that followed the police-involved deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, Ms. Haley, a Republican, said the swelling African-American movement protesting police misconduct was imperiling black lives and property.
“Most of the people who now live in terror because local police are too intimidated to do their jobs are black,” Ms. Haley said at a luncheon in Washington. “Black lives do matter, and they have been disgracefully jeopardized by the movement that has laid waste to Ferguson and Baltimore.”
Ms. Haley contrasted the rioting in those communities with what she described as the reconciliation that took place in South Carolina after the death in April of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back as he ran from a police officer, and the killing of nine members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston.
She noted that Mr. Scott’s killing prompted South Carolina to mandate that police officers wear body cameras, the first state in the country to do so, and she recalled her effort to build support for taking down the Confederate flag.
“Some people think that you have to yell and scream in order to make a difference,” Ms. Haley said. “That’s not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume level.”
For Ms. Haley, at 43 the youngest governor in the country, her address to the National Press Club represented the next phase of what is essentially an audition to be the Republican vice-presidential nominee next year. Her response to the Charleston killings lifted her national profile and prompted many in the party to suggest that Ms. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, should be on the short list of the eventual presidential nominee.
Ms. Haley did little to dissuade such talk during a question-and-answer session after her remarks, stating that she was focused on her state for now but that if the party standard-bearer next year approached her about joining the ticket, “of course I will sit down and talk.”
Her 28-minute address illustrated how, in positioning herself for higher national prominence, she is trying to balance her conservative views with a more inclusive brand of politics that could make her attractive in a general election.
So, with a handful of advisers and South Carolina political hands watching closely, Ms. Haley mixed harsh words for some black protesters and a defense of her state’s voter identification law with a call for Republicans to be more welcoming to minorities and for everybody engaged in politics to listen to one another.
She also toed a delicate line when asked after her remarks about Donald J. Trump’s candidacy, calling him “a friend” but making clear that she did not approve of his trademark personal insults.
Arguing that her own political success illustrated the South’s progress on race, Ms. Haley said voters should be required to show proof of identity to protect “the integrity of democracy.”
But, noting that she had gotten to know the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the aftermath of the Charleston shootings, the governor pledged to “stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with the longtime civil rights activist if he wanted to lead a voter registration drive in South Carolina.
“I want to make it easy for everyone who is rightfully eligible to vote to do so,” she said.
Asked in a brief interview after her speech about the additional voting restrictions some states have adopted, such as ending early vote periods or curtailing Sunday voting, Ms. Haley said that South Carolina allowed only absentee votes outside Election Day and that there had been no effort to limit those ballots.
As for her own party, Ms. Haley said that Republicans must change their tone if not their policies.
“The problem for our party is that our approach often appears cold and unwelcoming to minorities,” she said. “That is shameful, and it has to change.”
But asked if Mr. Trump’s attacks on immigrants and support for ending birthright citizenship represented the party she had in mind, the governor was cautious.
“He has tapped into a frustration that’s very real,” she said, but added that Mr. Trump’s personal attacks on critics did not represent “who we are as Republicans.”
As for whether she would be willing to serve as Mr. Trump’s running mate, Ms. Haley joked to the audience: “That is so wrong, whoever sent that question up.”
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Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley(born January 20, 1972)is an American politician and the 116th and current Governor of South Carolina. She is currently serving in her second term. A member of the Republican Party, Haley represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010.
When she entered the 2010 gubernatorial race, Haley gained endorsements for the Republican nomination from former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party movement, to finish first in the four-way Republican primary election on June 8, 2010 with 49% of the vote. Haley won the subsequent June 22 runoff with 65%, 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.She is one of two sitting Indian American governors in the United States, the other being fellow Republican Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. She might also be considered the third non-white person to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia’s L. Douglas Wilder and Louisiana’s Jindal depending on whether she is considered “non-white” or not. (Notably, Nikki Haley identified herself as “white” on her voter registration card in 2001.) She also serves as an ex-officio chair of the board of trustees of the University of South Carolina during her term in office. In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the University.
On November 4, 2014, Haley was re-elected to a second term as the Governor of South Carolina, a term that will expire on January 9, 2019.
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