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Nikki Haley: 10 things you didn't know about the S.C. Republican

By Philip Rucker
The past few days on the campaign trail, South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley liked to joke that she went from "Nikki Who?" to a near-permanent spot on the front pages of the Palmetto State's newspapers.

If the 38-year-old state representative becomes the Republican nominee for governor, she also instantly becomes one of the national GOP's most promising rising stars. She's smart and serious about policy, and a charismatic campaigner who dresses stylishly and can deliver barbed attacks with a smile.

So we interviewed Haley and her advisers and scoured local news archives to bring you 10 things you may not know about her:

1) She's a dragon slayer. This is not the first time Haley has upset her party's political establishment. In 2004, at age 32, she challenged state Rep. Larry Koon (R), a 30-year veteran and the state's longest-serving representative. Koon's family settled in the Lexington County district in the 1730s; Haley had lived there for five years. But she waved to commuters at subdivision entrances, passed out coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts in neighborhoods, and won a runoff over Koons by collecting 54 percent of the vote.

2) She is married to a National Guardsman. Haley's husband, Michael, is a full-time employee with the Army and as an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard. When they met, his name was Bill, but Nikki made him start going by his middle name, Michael. As she told one of her campaign advisers, "He didn't look like a 'Bill.'"

3) She's an accountant. At age 13, Haley began keeping the books at her parents' business, a women's fine-clothing boutique called Exotica in Lexington, S.C. She went on to Clemson University, where she majored in accounting, and has held finance and accounting jobs and has served on the Lexington County Chamber of Commerce board.

4) She's the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India. Haley's parents, Dr. Ajit and Raj Randhawa immigrated from Amritsar to the tiny town of Bamberg, S.C. (population 3,733). Nikki was born there and grew up with a sister, Simran, and two brothers, Mitti and Charan. Mitti was an active-duty officer in the Army for 20 years and fought in Desert Storm. Haley could become only the second Indian American governor in the country, joining Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

5) She shortened her name. Haley's full name is Nimrata Randhawa Haley, but when she entered politics, she went by Nikki Haley. She dropped her maiden name because, as she once told the Charlotte Observer, "It wouldn't fit on a yard sign."

6) She converted to Christianity. Although Haley was raised a Sikh, she married a Methodist and is raising her two children, Rena and Nalin, as Methodists. Haley has said she attends services of both faiths, but has converted to Methodism and often speaks about her faith in God on the campaign trail. Nikki Haley became the first descendant of the Sikh religion elected to any state legislature in the United States.

7) She is being advised by Mark Sanford's political team. When Haley entered the state legislature, Gov. Mark Sanford (R) singled her out as a protegee. They both were conservative reformers, advocating fiscal restraint and smaller government. Sanford groomed her to be his hand-picked successor, and she began working with one of his longtime political consultants, Jon Lerner, who also advises the conservative Club for Growth. After Sanford became entangled in personal scandal last year, Haley kept her distance from the tainted governor, but Lerner continued to advise her campaign and Haley won the endorsement of the governor's popular ex-wife, Jenny Sanford.

8) She holds a concealed-weapons permit.

9) She is cheap. Haley ran her governor's campaign on such a tight budget, an adviser said, that she could not afford to pay for lawn signs. She still ordered thousands of signs, but her campaign sold them to supporters for $5 apiece. She ended up making a profit off the lawn signs.

10) She's celebrating more than an election. Tuesday was also the 12th birthday of her daughter Rena.

By Philip Rucker  |  June 8, 2010; 8:44 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Looking ahead: Fiorina vs. Boxer
Next: Whitman will face challenge on immigration issue in California general election

Comments

she is exactly what we need, just like bobby jindal in louisiana. we can never have enough intelligent people helping to run our country.

Posted by: kitharris1 | June 9, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

JERRYB1 says:

"She does not need one, moron. Learn your constitution."

I know the constitution, and it says not a damn word about birth certificates. So your comment bears some explanation. Are you saying she doesn't need one because the Democrats aren't quite as lame as the teabaggers, and no one has yet accused her of lying about her birthplace?

>Her husband sounds like a wimp, by the way.

Well, on that, at least, we ageree.

Posted by: God666 | June 9, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I ordered a Nikki yard sign and thought it was a bit 'chintzy' that I had to pay 5 bucks for it. Then the package arrived and the postage amount was....you guessed it...5 bucks. She's not charging for the signs but for the postage to mail them.

She ran her campaign on less than half of the $$$ than what the other 3 candidates had at their disposal. If you go to the SC Sec. of State website and look at the lists of campaign contributors, you'll see that the other three good ole boys lists are full of contributions from lobbyists and PACS but Nikki's is not.

She's come this far because of her political views, not because of PAC money. Her supporters are grassroots, middle class taxpayers who are fed up with the current way we operate.

Posted by: nikkiwho | June 9, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TWO DUDES SHE SCREWED???

Posted by: willemkraal | June 9, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Since she's supported by Sarah Palin, do you think she'll resign after a year and a half in office? And for the same half baked reasons that the airhead from Wasilla claimed? (Though we all know it was the MONEY).

Posted by: roscym1 | June 9, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Those crafty and resourceful indians are taking control of unsophisticated conservative southern states (SC, La) in order to transform them and position themselves for even higher office. These people are notoriously racist and very parochial. They want to further infiltrate America so as to lean more in the direction of improving ties to India for the purpose exporting more US jobs overseas. Be very careful what you ask for.


Posted by: demtse | June 9, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse


Those crafty and resourceful indians are taking control of unsophisticated conservative southern states (SC, La) in order to transform them and position themselves for even higher office. These people are notoriously racist and very parochial. They want to further infiltrate America so as to lean more in the direction of improving ties to India for the purpose exporting more US jobs overseas. Be very careful what you ask for.


Posted by: demtse | June 9, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

in the south, South Carolina, she's considered a black person.

Posted by: dudh | June 8, 2010 10:00 PM


ABSOLUTELY FALSE.

Posted by: COLASC | June 9, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

in the south, South Carolina, she's considered a black person.

Posted by: dudh | June 8, 2010 10:00 PM


ABSOLUTELY FALSE.

Posted by: COLASC | June 9, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

in the south, South Carolina, she's considered a black person.

Posted by: dudh | June 8, 2010 10:00 PM


ABSOLUTELY FALSE.

Posted by: COLASC | June 9, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

This woman typifies the future of the Republican party. Liberals cling to tired, outdated 70s era people like Nancy Pelosi.

___________________________________________

Democratic Party policies of the past are dictating who Republican select as their candidate by opening the opportunities for women, black, and asian minoties.

Democrats of the past dictated where Republican party of present needs to go. Democratic party of present will dictate where Republican party of future will go.

Posted by: SeedofChange | June 9, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Not that I agree with her politics, but I'm all for more women in politics, especially in an "ole boys" Neanderthal state like South Carolina. She is attractive, gutsy and coherent in giving her message. More power to her.

Posted by: Aquarius1 | June 9, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

The author's not even thinly veiled disdain for Ms. Haley is amazing. For example, she is "cheap" rather than "frugal". She has a concealed weapons permit...no expounding or explanation. Not one word about her demonstrated mastery of economic, security, judicial, and infrastructure issues--Ms. Haley has garnered a reputation for being a quick study and very practical.
This woman typifies the future of the Republican party. Liberals cling to tired, outdated 70s era people like Nancy Pelosi. The conservatives reach for energizing youngsters like Ms. Haley. Like the saying goes, "It's a new generation, baby". WaPo and its writers need to figure this out.

Posted by: ClemstonHill | June 9, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

"If the 38-year-old state representative becomes the Republican nominee for governor, she also instantly becomes one of the national GOP's most promising rising stars."

What happened to Scott Brown? The shine is wearing off Ms Palin too. Bobby Jindal is doing his best to reverse the trend of his star, but the GOP isn't in the habit of recycling their flavor of the month.

Enjoy the limelight, Ms Haley, it's not likely to last very long.

.

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 9, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I cannot understand how newspapers ,print or internet,including the Post, allow the blatant posting of free ads in their comment sections when they censor them for the use of 3 or 4 letter derogatory words. Are these posted ads free or are they being paid for and used in discussion sections?

Posted by: rmilitello | June 9, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Unless you think a guy who looks like Usain Bolt could win the GOP nomination in Louisiana...
_____

What makes you think that wouldn't be possible? It seems to me that the election of Bobby Jindal as a governor in the deep south should count for something in terms of race relations in this country, as would the election of Nikki Haley. As for that matter, the election of President Obama. All of these are good things- regardless of our political differences- and speak volumes about where we have come as a country.

Not sure why you needed to throw in a gratuitous slap at the GOP, but I imagine someone who looked like Usain Bolt could indeed win a Republican primary, even in Louisiana, if he was competent and had a credible set of principles to run on. The GOP tends to vote based on their candidates' beliefs- regardless of race or creed- and not as some sort of contest to elect the first token member or whatever aggrieved minority group the Democrats feel like patronizing this week. You guys should be proud though, since it was quite a breakthrough for you to lay claim to the very first mentally retarded Speaker of the US House of Representatives!

Posted by: brian1va1 | June 9, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

She is so HOT! I wanna see her in a Hustler film together with Sarah Paylin! Yeah!

Look, from the sound of it, she might well make for a decent politiican, but that would be a perfect waste of a TERRIFIC porn star!

Get your priorities straight, people!

Go Nikki!

(Go naked, that is.)

Posted by: trenda | June 9, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Now that I know she is a Teabagger she can go to hell.

Posted by: truth1 | June 9, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

The right foods are the best solution for you to manage blood sugar use this free meal planner http://bit.ly/daDZ9s

Posted by: carygrant09 | June 9, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Ah, the hope of the Democratic Party.
-----
She changed her name and made her husband change his. Those are called aliases. What a bully.
Where is Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman when you need him.

Posted by: pjohn2 | June 9, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse

The use of this comment board for commercialism and bigotry is beyond the pale. I don't want to be "hall monitor", but is anyone minding the store?

Philip Rucker is a conscientious and thorough reporter and I trust his article and observations of Ms. Haley. I am not a Republican but she is type of person I would consider when I cast my vote.

Posted by: talitha1 | June 9, 2010 4:38 AM | Report abuse

YEAH, where is her birth certificate and I guarantee you if she went by her real name Nimrata Randhawa she wouldn't have gotten 5 percent of the vote. Slick!!

Posted by: juanchin | June 9, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

YEAH, where is her birth certificate and I guarantee you if she went by her real name Nimrata Randhawa she wouldn't have gotten 5 percent of the vote. Slick!!

Posted by: juanchin | June 9, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

YEAH, where is her birth certificate and I guarantee you if she went by her real name Nimrata Randhawa she wouldn't have gotten 5 percent of the vote. Slick!!

Posted by: juanchin | June 9, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only person who has a problem with her changing her husband's name?

Posted by: cookie714

--------------

It is a little amusing, but at least it wasn't done for politics. She started calling him by his middle name when they first met.

And, really, what woman isn't trying to change something about her boyfriend or husband? It is cliche, I know, but I'm sure if we took a poll of men, we'd be hard-pressed to find any who haven't been pushed to change something or another about themselves by a spouse or girlfriend. If switching from a first name to a middle name is the only thing that Haley has ever pushed her husband to change, then he is a very fortunate man.

Posted by: blert | June 9, 2010 1:02 AM | Report abuse

Where's HER U.S. birth certificate?
Posted by: gr8landclay

She does not need one, moron. Learn your constitution.

Her husband sounds like a wimp, by the way.

Posted by: JERRYB1 | June 9, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only person who has a problem with her changing her husband's name?

Posted by: cookie714 | June 9, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

Go Nikki!!

Posted by: thebump | June 9, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Where's HER U.S. birth certificate? And how about that non-Christian upbringing?

Posted by: gr8landclay

The article says she shortened her name not that it was necessarily a legal change. What's on the ballot:

Nikki Haley or Nimrata Randhawa Haley

It should be her legal name not some nickname.

Would it be considered polite during a debate [if there is one] that her opponent address her by her proper name Nimrata?

I've reached the point where I've been numbed to the dirty tactics. It's just a game now.

Posted by: James10 | June 8, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Where's HER U.S. birth certificate? And how about that non-Christian upbringing?

Posted by: gr8landclay | June 8, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm not saying there's no racism in the South, but I'm fairly sure they know and appreciate the difference between blacks and Asians.

Unless you think a guy who looks like Usain Bolt could win the GOP nomination in Louisiana...

Posted by: Simon23p | June 8, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

SC finding out not about an affair but her Indian Sikh heritage will hold it against her and elect Barrett. Stone Mountain may no longer be the Klan's rallying point but you know the prejudice still exists.

Posted by: jameschirico | June 8, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

in the south, South Carolina, she's considered a black person.

Posted by: dudh | June 8, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

in the south, South Carolina, she's considered a black person.

Posted by: dudh | June 8, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

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