Nikki Haley bests Vincent Sheheen for South Carolina governor

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Republican Nikki Haley beat Democratic opponent Vincent Sheheen to win the South Carolina governor’s race Tuesday, becoming the first minority governor in the state’s history and the second Indian American governor in the nation, after Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Haley, 38, a state representative from the suburbs of Columbia, the state capital, is the daughter of Sikh parents from the Punjab. An avowed fiscal conservative, she enjoyed an early endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and sustained support from the “tea party” movement, helping her overcome questions in the primary about her religious affiliation (she is a convert to Christianity) and allegations of extramarital affairs with two GOP operatives.

The infidelity issue continued to dog Haley well into the general election. In October, the two men who claimed they had an affair with her signed sworn statements detailing their alleged romantic encounters. Haley, a married mother of two, denied having the affairs. A spokesman said the allegations were desperate ploys from a “taxpayer-funded fraternity party” of “good old boys” long used to running the state.

Sheheen argued that a Haley administration would in effect be a continuation of the leadership of Gov. Mark Sanford, the two-term Republican who is leaving office due to term limits.

Sanford famously confessed in 2009 to an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, was dogged by subsequent ethics investigations and had a long history of clashing with both Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature -- a habit that critics said was a hindrance to good governance in the state.


South Carolina is saddled with an 11% unemployment rate and an expected billion-dollar budget shortfall. Haley has said she would stimulate jobs by eliminating business income taxes. She also said she would look to corporate sponsorships and faith-based organizations to help fund public libraries and educational programs. ouncer declared the candidate was “pro-life, pro-gun rights and pro-jobs.”

South Carolina is saddled with an 11% unemployment rate, the sixth-highest in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The governor-elect has said, among other things, that he would invest in the state’s higher-education system to attract industry. That may be easier said than done: The state also is facing an expected billion-dollar budget shortfall.