News / USA

    Haley, Chosen to Rebut Obama's State of Union Speech, Is Rising Republican Star

    FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 21, 2015.
    FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivers her State of the State address to the joint session of the legislature, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., Jan. 21, 2015.
    VOA News

    South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will give the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

    The honor is usually given to someone viewed as a rising star in the party, which aptly describes Haley.

    Haley - born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa on January 20, 1972, in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Indian immigrant parents - became the state's first female and first minority governor. She is also the country's youngest governor - 38 years old when she was elected in 2010. She will turn 44 a week after she appears following the president on January 12.

    Republican Response to State of the Union address

    President Barack Obama will give his eighth State of the Union address January 12.

    The State of the Union address is a message from the president to Congress, usually given once a year in January or February. It is customary for the party not in control of the White House to speak in response to the president's address, and the honor is usually given to a lawmaker who is gaining stature in that party.

    Here are the previous Republicans who have given the GOP response during Obama's tenure:

    February 24, 2009: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
    January 27, 2010: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
    January 25, 2011: U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, who is now Speaker of the House
    January 24, 2012: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels
    February 12, 2013: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is now running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
    January 28, 2014: U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state
    January 20, 2015: U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa
    January 12, 2016: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

    Sources: The White House, American Presidency Project

    Haley became South Carolina's first Indian-American office-holder on her election to the state legislature in 2004. Politically, she is solidly anti-tax and a fiscal conservative.

    Elected governor

    Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, propelled by her involvement with the "tea party" movement. She was endorsed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Jenny Sanford, former first lady of South Carolina.

    Since taking office in 2011, Haley has criticized President Obama on everything from health care reform to gun rights. She has voted for bills that restrict abortion and those that protect fetuses. And, as the child of legal immigrants, Haley supports stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

    In 2012, Haley spoke at the Republican National Convention, and toured the country to promote her book, Can't Is Not an Option, a memoir.

    Several events in South Carolina last year pushed Haley into the national spotlight.

    In June, Dylann Roof walked into a historic African-American church in Charleston and announced to witnesses he was there "to shoot black people." Roof opened fire on a Bible study group, killing six women and three men, including the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was a state senator and an Obama supporter.

    Roof told police he wanted to ignite "a race war," and photos turned up online showing him posing with a Confederate flag. That ignited a national debate over the banner known as "the Stars and Bars" - seen by some as a symbol of racist sentiment and by others as a reminder of the U.S. South's history of resisting federal-government controls. The flag had flown over South Carolina's capital since the 1960s.

    A protester waves a Confederate battle flag in front of the South Carolina statehouse, July 9, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina.
    A protester waves a Confederate battle flag in front of the South Carolina statehouse, July 9, 2015, in Columbia, South Carolina.

    Confederate flag issue

    During her 2014 re-election campaign, Haley touted her ability to draw business and jobs to the state. In a debate, she defended the Confederate flag’s presence in the capital, declaring that flying the flag was not an issue because “not a single CEO” had complained about it.

    The mass shooting in Charleston altered the governor's position, however. She said that hate crime changed her thinking about the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate banner over the statehouse, and she supported efforts to have the flag removed and placed in a museum.

    Legislation was passed and the flag was removed July 10, 2015.

    FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, and Major Gen. Bob Livingston, left, view flood damage from a helicopter in Columbia, S.C., Oct. 6, 2015.
    FILE - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, right, and Major Gen. Bob Livingston, left, view flood damage from a helicopter in Columbia, S.C., Oct. 6, 2015.

    Popularity

    Haley has remained popular in South Carolina, weathering such crises as a storm last October that cost nearly $1.5 billion in damages - a once-i-1,000-years event, the governor said. Her name has been mentioned a possible choice for vice president on the Republican Party's ticket for this November's general election.

    A  Public Policy Polling survey in November found 56 percent of voters in the state approve of the job she is doing. She is favored by 71 percent of Republicans and 53 percent of Independents.

    What sets Haley apart from other U.S. governors, the pollsters said, is her identity as a Republican who has measurable support among Democrats - a 40-percent approval rating, compared to 42-percent disapproval among members of the party of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

    Haley's speech charting the Republican Party's course as an alternative to Obama's proposals in the State of the Union message comes during final campaigning for the highly anticipated Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries - the first two statewide votes in the process to determine the Democratic and Republican nominees for the presidential election. South Carolina's presidential primary, two weeks later, is considered the most influential test of voter sentiment in the U.S. South.

    Family life

    Haley’s father, Ajit Randhawa, is a biology professor. Her mother, Raj, launched a multimillion-dollar clothing company from their South Carolina home.

    Nikki Haley was raised in the Sikh faith, but converted to Christianity and is now a member of the Methodist Church. She graduated in 1994 with an accounting degree from Clemson University, where she met her husband, Michael Haley.

    Michael Haley, known as South Carolina's "first gentleman," is a full-time federal employee, working as a technician for the state's Army National Guard. The Haleys have two children.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kanaikaal iurumporai
    January 13, 2016 3:38 AM
    It seems US is going to be dominated completely Indians these days, everything from Microsoft, Google and some of Obama's top foreign policy faces have already taken over, and this lady goes to the limelight! In a few years Americans will be receiving money handouts and gifts from politicians before going to the polls, and thereafter there will be possibilities for purchasing anything for a given sum, just like in India, where one can buy anything for a sum! The case related to the lady that breached law at the Indian consulate in New York sometimes back is just a sample!

    by: Agnes Conway
    January 12, 2016 11:15 PM
    I listened to most of what you said tonight; ;you were so right saying the GOP was part of the problem of "politics". In my view the GOP has, for the last 7 years, been 99% of the reason for
    "failed politics" in the United States. Take for instance, "Obama Care" - of course Obama knew it was not a perfect document, Why then, didn't the GOP step up to the plate and HELP with the documentation, instead of wasting time over and over trying to repeal it??????? Why did they agree to "not cooperate with anything that ;Obama tried to do? They have been the most obstinate bunch of do-nothings we have ever had in DC

    by: Jeff Sebring
    January 12, 2016 10:46 PM
    Gov. Haley made a remarkable follow up on the State Of The Union. The President should have had a lesson from Gov. Haley, and I am from Iowa!!

    by: Sons of Liberty from: America
    January 12, 2016 8:16 PM
    American Civil War history is a fascinating and honorable thing to preserve and I do not agree with the current movement to erase all things Confederate. However, the Confederate Battle Flag has been tarnished from its use by well known hate groups. It has no place atop United States government buildings. The Stars and Stripes is the only flag this country should have in that place of prominence.

    by: David R. Bryan from: Myrtle Beach, SC
    January 12, 2016 11:36 AM
    BIG MISTAKE: During her 2014 re-election campaign, Haley touted her ability to draw business and jobs to the state. In a debate, she defended the Confederate flag’s presence in the capital, declaring that flying the flag was not an issue because “not a single CEO” had complained about it.

    The mass shooting in Charleston altered the governor's position, however. She said that hate crime changed her thinking about the appropriateness of displaying the Confederate banner over the statehouse, and she supported efforts to have the flag removed and placed in a museum.

    Legislation was passed and the flag was removed July 10, 2015.

    Now efforts all across the country (New Orleans, U. of TX, Memphis, Georgia) are being made to remove Confederate symbols: monuments of great American generals such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, names of streets and buildings and schools, all efforts to alter or even remove anything and everything about America's past that relates to the Confederacy. You do not rewrite or alter or HIDE history, Gov. Haley. You TEACH history and never cherry pick for your history books the parts you LIKE and discard the parts you DON"T LIKE. That is not history. That is something one would find under an oppressive, tyrannical government such as that of Stalin or Mao.

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