Nikki Haley becomes first Indian-American woman governor

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

WASHINGTON - Riding a Republican wave, Nikki Haley, a daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar, created history as the first Indian American woman to win the Governor’s race in South Carolina state.

Haley, born Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa will be the first woman chief executive of the State and America’s second Indian-American governor after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, also a Republican, who became the first with his election three years ago.

A mother of two Haley, 38, who defeated Democrat Vincent Sheheen, with a surprisingly close 51 percent 47 percent vote in the most expensive election in state history Tuesday, has already like Jindal been mentioned as a “long shot” presidential candidate for 2012.

Haley saw quite a bit of controversy surround her campaign before the primary earlier this year. From a racial slur from a fellow lawmaker to unproven accusations of an affair by a political blogger, Haley still snagged the Republican nomination in a run-off in June with 65 percent votes.

Endorsed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Haley is also part of the populist, conservative/libertarian Tea Party movement.

Haley, one of the strongest fiscal conservatives in state government, was first elected to represent the 87th District in Lexington County in 2004, when, as a virtual unknown she beat the longest serving state legislator in a Republican primary.

In 2008, Haley was sent back to the state house with 83 percent of the vote - the highest percentage earned by any lawmaker facing a contested South Carolina election that year.

Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Nikki’s first job was keeping the books for her family’s clothing store - at the age of 13.

She went on to graduate from Clemson University with a BS degree in accounting and following her graduation worked as Accounting Supervisor for the Charlotte, North Carolina based corporation FCR, Inc. and five of its subsidiaries.

Nikki then went back to the family business where she helped oversee its growth into a multi-million dollar operation.

Nikki and her husband Michael, a full time federal technician with the South Carolina National Guard and an officer in the Army National Guard, live in Lexington with their two children, Rena, 12, and Nalin, 8.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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