May 14th, 2009
04:39 PM ET
9 years ago

Top Sanford ally enters race for South Carolina governor

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has a protege of sorts in the race to succeed him.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has a protege of sorts in the race to succeed him.

(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."

Filed under: Mark Sanford • Nikki Haley • South Carolina
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. mariel

    As a resident of SC, Sanford has run our state into the dirt. It is literally crumbling. People have had it with him and will not vote for anyone associated with this excuse for an elected official.

    May 14, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  2. Geordie

    I am happy to see a woman wiht Indian heritage rise out of the Republican party, even if it is backwoods SC politics. Look how progressive that is from the Strom Thurmond days. She would be a Democrat naturally but the reason Indian heritage folks choose Republican is because Andrew Jackson was a Democrat and they still see that as a party against their heritage from the Trail of Tears Day. I don;'tknow much about her, but if she can win, Republican or not, it would be a huge step for South Carolina's political image.

    May 14, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. Moderate Democrat

    YAY: South Carolina has found another person that will treat the children to a poor education, the jobless to less jobs and the citizens to neglect and abuse!

    Yay for Conservatives, an Equal Opportunity Torture, Abuse and Mismanagement advocate!

    May 14, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. Matt

    I only drive through SC and vacation there from time to time but hasn't Sanford's fiscal policies been somewhat disastrous to the state economy? I do know that for every $1 SC pays in taxes it receives $1.35 in federal aide. Thats was even before the Stimulus package was passed. But hey if she wins she'll continue his fiscal policies. Woo-Hoo!!!

    May 14, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Joyce

    I sure hope the Democrats find someone to run against this lady. When I listen to Governor Sanford grandstanding, I am embarassed to live in South Carolina. He is only interested in his political ambitions and not the people.

    May 14, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Annette

    God, help South Carolina and all its resident there. Amen!

    May 14, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. RB, CA

    Yes, she will continue the tradition of "fiscal conservatism" that has made South Carolina a perennial welfare state, taking more money from the federal government in aid, than it gives back in taxes. Sounds like the republicans have a plan. Unfortunately, it's the same old plan.

    May 14, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  8. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    "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.

    Why Ms. Haley, and I believed that all Republicans were "fiscal conservatives"! So, let me get this straight, the GOP *** controlled*** South Carolina legislature has been spending with ....... "abandon"!?! Yikes! And I thought only Bush & DICK did that!

    May 14, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  9. arithmetic is liberal

    If she believes so much in fiscal conservatism, let's see her put her plans in action. No more money for SC. You get to be fiscally conservative on your own.

    South Carolina is a welfare queen.

    May 14, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  10. arithmetic is liberal

    rhondabeyer May 14th, 2009 3:52 pm ET

    "CNN" The Clinton News Network

    Wow! Nothing like an (unrelated) oldie but a goodie!
    Never heard that one before...

    May 14, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  11. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    So what is WRONG with "spending?"

    How else can we take care of the needs of our country if we don't "spend?"

    We the People are the spenders! We need things the entire public uses: roads, schools, street lights, refuse dumps, electrical grids, you name it, we need it to share in society.

    So why then do we collect taxes if the money isn't supposed to be "spent?"

    Bush Two spent a HUGE amount of money, especially on his wars.

    May 14, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. whaley41

    @Once You Vote Black, you are the stupid racist!!! And while you are at it, learn to spell, or don't they teach spelling in other states. I am glad you are not in the South! Stay away!! You idiots only know about the South from the liberal talking heads.

    May 14, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  13. Charleston Resident

    I am a SC resident and have lived here most of my life and I will tell you from what I see and hear – most, if not all, of the educated businessmen I have worked with at best mock Mr. Sanford, and at worst, well...
    The nickname many have dubbed him for his air-headed politics and almost laughable antics is actually "Governor Moonbeam."
    Take it for what it is, but that is his reputation among many of the business leaders, Democrat and Republican alike, in the upstate and even low country. So why, do you ask, is he governor? Well – if you paint a hedgehog red and put a Palin pin on it, 70 percent of our under-educated state will make sure that animal goes straight to the governor's mansion. We summary....very, very dumb.

    May 14, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  14. sg

    geordie: she is not native american. she is indian-american. her parents are from india. get the difference? trail of tears means nothing to her. if you want to dump on democrats through a convoluted andrew jackson relationship, just do so. don't show your ignorance in the process. in any event the democrats of old are today's republicans. much like your strom thurmond.

    May 14, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  15. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC

    I still want a polling agency to actually poll SC on Sandford's relative popularity.

    I'm pretty certain Sanford has lost about 20 points in approval due to his stunt with the stimulus money. For Haley to tie her skirts to Sanford's coat-tails in this... shows better than anything else could how stupid she is.

    If she's the best the GOP has to offer, perhaps the democrats might actually win in SC in 2010.
    (not certain... but there's a chance)

    May 14, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  16. randall

    I pray and hope that the people of South Carolina will send the republicans home and replace them with moderate thinking democrats or independents.

    Your neighbor in N.C.

    May 14, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  17. Dee, NJ

    GOP Southern, SC Gov is not going winning this time!

    May 14, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  18. Cynthia - Arkansas

    Do they have a good Democrat who will run?

    May 14, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  19. Dace Tucson

    Can't they get a human being to run in this state? Don't they know the civil war ended and the white hood party that remains in control today has ruined their state? Well I guess hypocrisy is what the right wing lives on – decrying taxes and government, insisting on a theocracy, continuing hate for all minorities and women – yet being a virtual welfare state – disgusting.

    May 14, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  20. Lou from CT

    It is astounding to see the Republicans scrambling to find their way...

    May 14, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. hongli

    The Republican party is done like dinner. Stick a fork and turn off the lights please ,now rest in peace.

    May 14, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  22. Gretchen, MD

    Sounds like a Sarah Palin wanna-be.

    May 14, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. Georgia

    Its all right to be fiscally conservative – but don't you have to have SOME COMPASSION for your constituents??? Its a good thing to care about things like unemployment and the overall living standards for the people of his state. And his state is the toilet of the US because of him.

    May 14, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. kadar

    hate mongers is over...we need hope over hate

    May 14, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  25. ugghh in SC

    assuming the Sanford mantle of fiscal conservatism is sort of like assuming the Wiley Coyote mantle of chasing Roadrunners: In the end, you wind up plummeting off a cliff.

    May 14, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
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