Nikki Haley: Youngest US governor
Nikki Haley is an Indian American politician and is currently the Governor of South Carolina. At 40, she is the youngest current governor in the United States.
Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20 1972. Her father, a doctor, and her mother, an entrepreneur, are both immigrants from Punjab, India.
Haley is one of four children – she has two brothers, Mitti and Charan, and a sister, Simran. She attended Clemson University and received a Bachelor in Science in accounting, after which she joined a waste management and recycling company.
She eventually joined the family clothing business, Exotica International, in 1994 and helped turn it into a multimillion dollar enterprise.
A member of the Republican Party, Haley ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, challenging Larry Koon. Koon, the longest-serving member of the house at the point, had served since 1975. She initially won 40 per cent of the vote and was thus eligible for a runoff.
She won the runoff with 54 per cent of the total vote and and won a seat in the House. Her campaign was a fiscally conservative one that focused on education.
With her win, she became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina.
In 2006, she was unopposed for reelection and defeated Democrat candidate Edgar Gomez two years later with 83 per cent of the vote.
Haley announced her desire to run for Governor of South Carolina in 2009 and was endorsed by several high-profile Republicans, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Despite this, she received little support from the electorate until former Alaska governor Sarah Palin endorsed her.
Haley went on to win 51 per cent of the vote and was elected governor.
Her policies have largely aimed to lower taxes and cut wasteful spending. For example, she has lobbied to have teachers’ salaries pegged to their performance, rather than their experience and qualifications.
Haley’s tenure as governor has been rocked by several scandals. Several detractors of Haley have taken to making racial slurs about her Sikh background, while a former press secretary claimed to have had a physical relationship with her before she became Governor. Haley has denied the claim and vowed to resign if the claims were somehow validated.
For her efforts to cut taxes and government spending, the South Carolina Association of Taxpayers named her a ‘Friend of the Taxpayer’ in 2005. She won the award again in 2009.
In 2011, India Abroad named Haley its ‘Person of the Year’ for 2010.
Haley has been married to Michael Haley, a federal employee with the United States Department of the Army and an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard, for 16 years. The couple have two children, Rena and Nalin.
Born a Sikh, Haley ensured that her marriage had ceremonies in both a Sikh gurdwara and a Methodist church. She has since identified herself as a Christian but regularly visits the gurdwara out of respect for her parents’ culture.
References and images: Wikipedia, Nikki Haley Official
This biography will be updated regularly.