Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley
116th Governor of South Carolina
Assumed office
January 12, 2011
Preceded by Mark Sanford
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, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Michael Haley
Children 2
Residence Governor's Mansion
Education Accounting (1994) (BS)
Alma mater Clemson University
Website Government website

Nikki Haley[1][2] (born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa; January 20, 1972)[2][3][4] is an American politician who has served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina since 2011. Prior to becoming governor, she represented Lexington County in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011.[5]

Haley is the first woman to serve as Governor of South Carolina; at the age of 44, she is the youngest current governor in the United States.[6][7] She is the second Indian-American, after Bobby Jindal, to serve as governor in the United States. Besides serving as governor, she also serves as chair, ex-officio, of the board of trustees of the University of South Carolina during her term in office.[8]

On November 4, 2014, Haley was re-elected to a second term as governor, a term that will expire on January 9, 2019.[9] She delivered the Republican response to Barack Obama's final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016.[10]

On November 23, 2016 it was announced that President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate Haley for Ambassador to the United Nations when he takes office.[11]

Early life and education

Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa[1][2] in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian Sikh family.[12] She was "always called Nikki, which means 'little one,' by her family."[13] Her parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, Punjab, India,[14] where Ajit had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University. Haley's parents immigrated to Canada after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. After her father earned a PhD in 1969, Ajit moved his young family to South Carolina to accept a position as a professor at Voorhees College.[15]

When Haley was 5 years old, her parents entered her in the "Miss Bamberg" contest.[14] The contest traditionally crowned a black queen and a white queen.[14] The judges decided Haley did not fit either category, so the judges disqualified her.[14]

Nikki has two brothers, Mitti, a retired member of the United States Army Chemical Corps who served in Desert Storm, and Charan, a web designer.[15] She has a sister, Simran, a radio host and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, born in Singapore.[15][16]

At age 12, Nikki began helping with the bookkeeping in Exotica International, her mother's ladies' clothing shop.[17] The Economist likens her to another shopkeeper's daughter, Margaret Thatcher, writing that Nikki's girlhood job in her mother's shop gave her "an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion."[17]

Nikki is a graduate of Orangeburg Preparatory Schools and Clemson University, with a bachelor's degree in accounting.[18]


Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company,[19][20] before joining her mother's business, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm, in 1994.[21] The family business grew to become a multimillion-dollar company.[21]

Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998.[22] 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.[22] She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital.[21] She also serves on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff's Foundation, and West Metro Republican Women. She is president of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and was chair for the 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign. She is a member of the Rotary Club in Lexington.[23]

South Carolina House of Representatives


In 2004, Haley 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.[24] In the primary election, she forced a runoff as Koon won just 42% of the vote. She placed second with 40% of the vote.[25] In the runoff, she defeated him 55%–45%.[26] She then ran unopposed in the general election.[27] She became the first Asian-American of Asian Sikh Indian heritage to hold office in South Carolina.[28][29]

She was unopposed for re-election to a second term in 2006.[30] In 2008, she won re-election to a third term, defeating Democrat Edgar Gomez 83%–17%.[31][32]


Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005 and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly.[23] She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot.[33]

Fiscal policy

One of Haley's stated goals is to lower taxes. She 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.[34] 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.[35]

Haley has said that funds allocated for public education can be used 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.[36] During her gubernatorial campaign, Haley stated that she would be in favor of school choice and more charter schools.[37] 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.[38]

Immigration policy

Haley has stated that, as the daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced.[39] She voted in favor of a law that requires employers to be able to prove that 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. Haley signed an "Arizona-style" law cracking down on illegal immigration in June 2011,[40] but the law is 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."[41]


The New York Times has stated that "Haley describes herself as 'pro-life'", as member of the United States pro-life movement.[14][42][43][44] Haley has consistently supported bills that protect the rights of a fetus and restrict abortion, except when the mother's life is at risk. As a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2006, Haley voted for the Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law, which asserted that an act of violence against a fetus is akin to a criminal act against the mother. She also voted for two separate bills that required a woman to first look at an ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before being permitted to have an abortion.[45] Haley has 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 last-mentioned bill would have allowed specific cases of women to not have to wait the mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion.[46]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

2010 election for governor

Haley joins U.S. military service members for the launch of Operation Palmetto Employment.

On May 14, 2009, Haley announced that she would run for the Republican nomination for Governor of South Carolina in 2010.[49] Haley had been persuaded to run by incumbent Governor Mark Sanford.[50] 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.[51][52][53] She was polling last in the GOP race before a surprise endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, three weeks before the primary vote.[54] The Republican gubernatorial primary took place on June 8, 2010, and Haley captured 49% of the vote, necessitating a runoff election on June 22.[55] Haley won handily in the runoff vote.[56]

Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, over the Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen 51% to 47%.[57] She is 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 Bobby Jindal. (Though notably, Nikki Haley identified herself as “white” on her voter registration card in 2001.[58])

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]


Economic policies

Haley supports lower taxes, opposes regulation and is extremely anti-union. 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 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.[60][61]

Confederate flag

In June 2015, following the Charleston church shooting, Haley led bi-partisan calls for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol and its grounds.[62] Haley stated:

"These grounds (the State Capital) are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain." Haley also said, "There is a place for that flag," but she said "It's not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina."[63]

In July 2015, Haley signed a Bill to authorize removing the Confederate flag from the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol.[64][65]

LGBT issues

In April 2016, Haley indicated she would not support legislation introduced by the South Carolina State Senate which would require transgender individuals to use restrooms based on biological sex instead of gender identity. Haley stated:

“These are not instances... Y’all haven’t reported on anything. I haven’t heard anything that’s come to my office. So when I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re, again, not hearing any citizens that feel like they are being violated in terms of freedoms.”

Haley described such restroom legislation as unnecessary.[66][67][68]


Haley has been described as a "strong supporter of the State of Israel".[69] As South Carolina Governor she signed into law a bill to stop efforts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.[69] The anti-BDS legislation was the first of kind on a statewide level.[69]

Other issues

As governor, in 2016, Haley received extensive press coverage for saying the phrase "bless your heart" in response to an attack by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.[70][71][72][73] Trump had attacked her on Twitter for her call for him to release his tax records.[74]

In 2016, Governor Haley was named among "The 100 Most Influential People" by Time magazine.[75][76]

She also supports a law requiring photo identification at the polls.[77]

2014 re-election

Haley speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

On August 12, 2013, Haley announced she would seek a second term during a rally August 26, 2013, at the BI-LO Center in downtown Greenville.[78] She faced a challenge in the primaries for Republican nomination from Tom Ervin. However Ervin withdrew and then contested the 2014 gubernatorial elections as independent.[79][80]

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, as well as Libertarian Steve French, and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves.[80] The first public debate was held in Charleston on October 14, between French, Ervin, Haley, Reeves, and Sheheen.[81] The second public debate in Greenville on October 21, again included all five candidates.[82] A week after the second debate, Ervin withdrew from the race and endorsed Sheheen.[83]

Haley was re-elected on November 4, 2014, with a 55.9 percent to 41.3 percent win, almost tripling her previous margin of victory over Sheheen in 2010 gubernatorial elections.[84] Her second term as governor of South Carolina expires in January 2019.

Potential vice-presidential candidacy

In 2012, former Governor Mitt Romney considered her for his vice-presidential running mate.[14]

The Economist described Haley as a politician with high approval ratings and as combination of "fiscal ferocity and a capacity for conciliation," and stated as a female candidate and ethnic minority she would have appeal. Haley was mentioned early in 2016 as a potential candidate for the Vice Presidency.[85][17][86] On May 4, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee following his last competitor John Kasich suspending his campaign, Haley denied interest in the vice presidential nomination.[87][88]

Personal life

Haley was raised as a Sikh. In September 1996, she married Michael Haley with both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies.[89] Haley identifies herself today as a Christian.[90] She attends Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church.[91]

Her husband is an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and was sent on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in January 2013.[92][93][94] The couple have two children, Rena and Nalin.[95][96]

In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the University of South Carolina.[8]

Electoral history

South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Republican Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Larry Koon (inc.) 2,354 42.27
Republican Nikki Haley 2,247 40.35
Republican David Perry 968 17.38
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 2,929 54.70
Republican Larry Koon (inc.) 2,426 45.30
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 14,421 98.94
Write-ins Write-ins 155 1.06
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 11,387 99.48
Write-ins Write-ins 60 0.52
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 17,043 83.12
Democratic Edgar Gomez 3,446 16.81
Write-ins Write-ins 16 0.08
South Carolina Governor Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 206,326 48.86
Republican Gresham Barrett 91,824 21.75
Republican Henry McMaster 71,494 16.93
Republican Andre Bauer 52,607 12.46
South Carolina Governor Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 233,733 65.05
Republican Gresham Barrett 125,601 34.95
South Carolina Governor Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 690,525 51.37
Democratic Vincent Sheheen 630,534 46.91
Green/United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 20,114 1.50
Write-ins Write-ins 3,025 0.23
South Carolina Governor Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 696,645 55.90
Democratic Vincent Sheheen 516,166 41.42
Libertarian Steve French 15,438 1.24
Independent Tom Ervin 11,496 0.92
United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 5,622 0.45
Write-ins Write-ins 934 0.07


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External links

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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
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Mark Sanford
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