Nikki Haley of South Carolina: rise of a new GOP star
Nikki Haley won the Republican primary runoff for governor of South Carolina on Tuesday. An Indian-American, she is the favorite to best Democrat Vincent Sheheen in November.
In a party eager for political talent that isn’t white and male, Republican Nikki Haley has already made her mark.Skip to next paragraph
The Indian-American state legislator from South Carolina decisively won her primary runoff for governor Tuesday, beating Rep. Gresham Barrett (R) 65 percent to 35 percent. She goes into her general election contest against Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen, a state senator, as the favorite in this solidly red state. If Ms. Haley wins, she would be South Carolina’s first woman governor and the first Indian-American woman in the country to win such a post. She would also join Bobby Jindal of Louisiana as the second Indian-American governor in the US.
South Carolina and the Republican Party scored a second win for diversity Tuesday in the First Congressional District primary runoff, with the victory of GOP state legislator Tim Scott, who is African-American. In an ironic twist, he defeated the son of late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R), a Southern political legend and former segregationist. If Mr. Scott wins in November, he will be the party’s first black member of Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003.
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But it was Haley who won the biggest headlines. In her victory speech, she sought to downplay the politics of identity and to focus on governance in a state that became a comedic punchline a year ago, when Gov. Mark Sanford (R) disappeared and was discovered to have been with his lover in Argentina.
“This is a movement about government being open and accountable to people,” said Haley, who had support from the "tea party" movement and was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “This is a movement that was about clear conservative ideas that just wasn’t going to take any distractions.”
Haley herself had faced allegations of marital infidelity during the campaign, which she denied. Last week, she also faced questions about tax records that showed she earned more than $40,000 as a consultant for an engineering firm that has dealings with the state. She says she did nothing wrong.