US ambassador to the United Nations
Nimrata “Nikki” Haley (née Randhawa; born January 20, 1972) is an American politician and the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She served as the 116thGovernor of South Carolina from January 2011 to January 2017. Prior to her tenure as governor, Haley was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, serving from 2005 until her election as governor.
Haley was the first female Governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American, after fellow Republican Bobby Jindal, to serve as a governor in the United States. Haley delivered the official Republican response to President Barack Obama‘s 2016 State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016. In 2016, then-Governor Haley was named among “The 100 Most Influential People” by Time magazine.
Early life and education
Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian Sikh family. She was “always called Nikki, which means ‘little one,’ by her family.” Her parents, father Ajit Singh Randhawa and mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, Punjab, India.Her father had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, and her mother had received her law degree from the University of Delhi. Haley’s parents immigrated to Canada, after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. When her father received his PhD degree in 1969, he moved his family to South Carolina, where he accepted a position as a professor at Voorhees College.Her mother, Raj Randhawa earned a master’s degree in education and taught for seven years in the Bamberg, South Carolina, public schools before founding a clothing shop, Exotica International, in 1976.
When Haley was five years old, her parents entered her in the “Miss Bamberg” contest. The contest traditionally crowned a black queen and a white queen. Since the judges decided Haley did not fit either category, they disqualified her.
Haley has two brothers, Mitti, a retired member of the United States Army Chemical Corps who served in Desert Storm, and Charan, a web designer.She has one sister, Simran, a radio host and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, who was born in Singapore.
At age 12, Haley began helping with the bookkeeping in her mother’s ladies’ clothing shop. The Economist compares her to another shopkeeper’s daughter, Margaret Thatcher, saying that Haley’s childhood job gave her “an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion.”
In 1989, Haley graduated from Orangeburg Preparatory Schools. She graduated from Clemson University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.
Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining her mother’s business, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm, as chief financial officer in 1994. The family business grew to become a multimillion-dollar company.
Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998. 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. She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital. 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 has spoken at Rotary clubs in South Carolina.
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. Her platform included property tax relief and education reform. In the primary election, she forced a runoff as Koon won just 42% of the vote. She placed second with 40% of the vote.In the runoff, she defeated him 55%–45%. She then ran unopposed in the general election. She became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina.
She was unopposed for re-election to a second term in 2006. In 2008, she won re-election to a third term, defeating Democrat Edgar Gomez 83%–17%.
Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005 and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly.She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot at the time.
One of Haley’s stated goals is to lower taxes. When Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina, Haley voted against cigarette surtax. The revenue from the tax would have been appropriated to smoking prevention programs and cancer research related to smoking.She voted for a bill that raised sales taxes to 6%. 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.
Haley implemented a plan in which teachers’ salaries would be based not only on seniority and qualifications but also on job performance, as determined by evaluations and reports from principals, students, and parents.
Haley is in favor of school choice and charter schools.
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.
Haley has stated that, as the daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced.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, 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.”
Haley describes herself as pro-life and has supported legislation to restrict abortion rights.
She has stated “I’m not pro-life because the Republican Party tells me, I’m pro-life because all of us have had experiences of what it means to have one of these special little ones in our life.”
Haley has consistently supported bills that protect the rights of a fetus and restrict abortion, except when the mother’s life is at risk. In 2006, as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 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. In 2016, she re-signed a new state law that bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Haley has voted in favor of 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 latter would have allowed specific cases of women to not have to wait the mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion.
- Labor, Commerce and Industry
- Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs
- Freshman Caucus, 2005–2006 (Chair)
- Lexington County Meth Taskforce
- Sportsman’s Caucus
- Women’s Caucus, 2007 (Vice Chair)
2010 gubernatorial election
Main article: South Carolina gubernatorial election, 2010
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 the 2010 elections. Haley had been persuaded to run by incumbent Governor Mark Sanford.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. She was polling in last place in the GOP race before a surprise endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, three weeks before the primary vote. The Republican gubernatorial primary took place on June 8, 2010, and Haley captured 49% of the vote, forcing a runoff election on June 22. Haley won handily in the runoff vote.
Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, defeating the Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen 51% to 47%. She is considered the third non-white person to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia‘s Douglas Wilder and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.
Haley’s victory marked the first gubernatorial victory for a Sikh in US history.
Haley’s official Governor’s photo.
Fine by State Ethics Commission
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.
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl
In August 2013, Haley signed an extradition order for Dusten Brown to be brought to South Carolina in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case.
In inviting business to move to South Carolina she has said:
Prior to June 2015, Haley had been in support of flying the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. Following the Charleston church shooting, Haley led bi-partisan calls for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol and its grounds. Haley stated:
In July 2015, Haley signed a Bill to authorize removing the Confederate flag from the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol.
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:
Haley described such restroom legislation as unnecessary.
Haley has been described by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham as a “strong supporter of the State of Israel“. As Governor of South Carolina, she signed into law a bill to stop efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This legislation was the first of its kind on a statewide level. Haley also stated that “nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel”.
Request for tax return disclosure by Donald Trump
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. Trump had attacked her on Twitter for her call for him to release his tax records.
Voter ID laws
Haley supports Voter ID laws, laws requiring photo identification at the polls.
Main article: South Carolina gubernatorial election, 2014
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 as Governor. She faced a challenge in the Republican primary from Tom Ervin. However, Ervin withdrew and later contested the 2014 gubernatorial elections as an independent.
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. The first public debate was held in Charleston on October 14, between French, Ervin, Haley, Reeves, and Sheheen. The second public debate in Greenville on October 21, again included all five candidates. A week after the second debate, Ervin withdrew from the race and endorsed Sheheen.
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. Her second term as governor of South Carolina was set to expire on January 9, 2019, but she resigned on January 24, 2017 to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Potential vice-presidential candidacy
In 2012, former Governor Mitt Romney considered her for his vice-presidential running mate. In April 2012, Haley said that she would turn down any offer: “I’d say, ‘Thank you, but no, I made a promise to the people of this state. And I think that promise matters. And I intend to keep it.”
Haley was mentioned in January 2016 as a potential candidate for the vice presidency in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Economist described Haley as a politician with high approval ratings who possesses a combination of “fiscal ferocity and a capacity for conciliation,” and stated as a female candidate and ethnic minority she would have appeal. On May 4, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee, Haley denied interest in the vice presidential nomination.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Haley sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 25, 2017
On November 23, 2016 President-electDonald Trump announced his intention to nominate Haley for Ambassador to the United Nations. On January 20, 2017, President Donald Trump sent Haley’s nomination to the United States Senate.
On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed by the Senate 96-4 to become Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations. The four that voted against Haley were: Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) Shortly thereafter, she resigned as South Carolina governor and Lt. Governor Henry McMaster ascended into the governorship of South Carolina.
Haley was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 25, 2017. She met with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on January 27 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.
On February 2, 2017, Haley expressed to the U.N. Security Council that sanctions against Russia, regarding the Crimean conflict, will not be lifted until Russia returns their control over Crimea to Ukraine.
Haley was raised as a Sikh. In September 1996, she married Michael Haley with both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies. Haley converted to Christianity and attends a United Methodist Church. During a Christianity Today interview, Haley responded “What I hope is that my parents do what’s right for them,” when asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity. She attends Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church, as well as SikhGurdwara services.
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. The couple has two children, Rena and Nalin. As of 2017, Rena is a freshman at Clemson.
In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the University of South Carolina.
Awards and honors
- 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, South Carolina Policy Council, 2006
- Strom Thurmond Excellence in Public Service and Government Award, 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
- Honorary Doctorate, University of South Carolina, 2015
- Ambassador of the Year, Columbia Chamber, 2015.
- Award of Appreciation, Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, 2015
- David H. Wilkins Awards for Excellence, The Riley Institute at Furman University, 2015
- First Lady’s Visionary Award, Claflin University, 2016
- “The 100 Most Influential People”, Time Magazine, 2016
- Hyman Rubin Award, Greater Columbia Community Relations Council, 2016
- WDN “10 for 10” award, International Republican Institute, 2016
- Global Vision Award, Columbia World Affairs Council, 2016