(CNN) – One of Mark Sanford's top political allies is entering the race to succeed him as South Carolina governor.
Rep. Nikki Haley, a 37-year-old third-term state representative from Lexington, announced her bid on Thursday and immediately signaled that she will assume the Sanford mantle of fiscal conservatism.
"For more than five years I've sat in the statehouse and watched - sometimes in disbelief - as our state government has spent with abandon and in the process wasted taxpayer dollar after taxpayer dollar," Haley said in a statement.
In the state house, she has been a loyal backer of Sanford's small-government initiatives, proposals which have often irked other Republican lawmakers. Haley also plans to hire Sanford's Washington-based political consultant, Jon Lerner, to run her campaign.
Haley became the first Indian-American Republican state legislator in the country in 2004 after winning a nasty primary runoff that featured an anonymous mail attack calling attention to her non-white heritage.
She would become South Carolina's first female governor - if she can survive a crowded Republican primary already loaded with South Carolina GOP heavyweights who are backed by some of the state's best political strategists.
Although Haley is regarded as a rising star among South Carolina Republicans, several GOP operatives in the state not affiliated with rival campaigns told CNN they were surprised she is choosing to jump into a five-way primary now rather than wait for a clearer opportunity at a later date.
Other candidates in the race for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination include South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Sen. Larry Grooms and Furman University professor Brent Nelson.
UPDATE: Sanford released a statement Thursday praising Haley.
"Nikki Haley is a true conservative and one of our state's leading voices for fiscal responsibility and government reform," Sanford said. "It's too early to endorse anyone, but I would say Nikki Haley would make a terrific and inspiring choice as governor, and she's a great addition to the field of candidates."
"CNN" The Clinton News Network
The sexist Southern men will never stand for this – mark my word.
It's a great life being a token minority in the Republicans, so join up today.
Hey, maybe we should ALL jump into the race in South Carolina. Seems to me like there's a "FREE FOR ALL" contest going on in the south. Anyone and everyone is qualified based on Gov. Sanford's horrific record and incompetence. What a no brainer.
Count me in, I'm going to run too! LOL
Good luck lets keep it reasonably clean.
"For more than five years I've sat in the statehouse and watched — sometimes in disbelief — as our state government has spent with abandon and in the process wasted taxpayer dollar after taxpayer dollar," Haley said in a statement
Listenin to NASCAR on the radio and Twitterin....
Mr. Nostimulus money :- Good luck
I'd rather see State Senator Tom Davis run. Davis was at one time Sanford's chief of staff and as an Independent voter I would support Tom Davis. He is a reasonable, rational, gifted Republican legislator who would be good for the state of South Carolina.
Good, you will go down with the rest of the No solution having,non logical thinking, fear mongering, ignorant rethugs.
I hope neither one of thim win.
Republican Primaries are going to be so much fun to watch.
I'm getting my Popcorn ready right now!
rhondabeyer,you're a buffoon! if you got a problem with CNN then why do you come here?
Maybe she's choosing to jump into a crowded five-way primary because she'd be facing all white men. If she can appeal to female voters and these so-called "heavyweights" split the vote among men, she may be on to something. Either way, no one knew who she was before today and now she's on CNN. Not a bad way to make a name for yourself early in the game.
SC folks appear to racists beyond belief. I wish her the best in GOP primary and hope she loses badly in the election against Dem. GOP needs to be kicked hard – so hard – in its back that they will divorce hate-mongers and KKK types out of the party (Hannity, MF Savage etc)
South Carolina is literally poor. Ask the people who live there. Why is that?
Don't judge Davis harshly because he worked for Sanford. Davis has a better balance than Sanford and gets both sides of an issue. For the record I'm anything but a Sanford fan, I'm angry about his stubborn stance even Lindsay Graham told Stanford to get a grip.
Independent from Texas......Ouch! I'm from South Carolina and anything but a racist. I voted for hope not hate.....Obama/Biden 2008
I hope she gets a political beat down......
Wow, I am glad my family escaped that hell whole in the 1800s. The women are just a racist as the men. The GOP will have tiny little circular firing squads for the next 20 years. Southerners are stupid.
Funny, that's no different than the Fed's wasting dollar after dollar.
And if she's elected- -No Change
Wow!! Just what South Carolina needs....another conservative running for office. Isn't this state almost last in every department?
The only good thing to come out of South Carolina was a busload of moderate thinkers going home in another state.
I am glad that everyone around the country sees what a mess the Republicans in SC are making. As a resident of the state I hope that the Democrats can find someone to run against the GOP list of baffooons. I am glad that Gov. Sanford is out of the governor's mansion!
Isn't this the state with the RUN DOWN SCHOOL that refused stimulus money??
Why was she only watching? Why not participate in finding solutions addressing the needs of the citizens of her state? Now she wants the top state job?
Citizens of the state of South Carolina wake up, it is not about political party or being a female manority IT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE WELL BEING OF ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF YOUR STATE!!
Sanford has become the laughing stock of the Carolina's. Who in their right mind would take up his "mantle" of hurting people in his home state?
And I'll bet that she has a whole NEW PLAN – Lower the taxes of the rich and let the effects trickle down!!