[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/27/art.nikkihaley8.nh.jpg caption ="South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has the backing of Gov. Mark Sanford's political allies and donors."]Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - After joining the South Carolina legislature in 2004, Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley emerged as one of Gov. Mark Sanford’s top deputies in his crusades to reduce spending, reform education and restructure the state government.
Haley was pressed to enter this year’s governor’s race by Sanford’s political allies and donors. A Sanford-backed advocacy group, “ReformSC,” ran the first television ads supporting Haley in the governor’s race.
Haley’s pollster and media adviser is a longtime Sanford adviser, and her campaign manager is a former Sanford aide. Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny, is one of Haley’s most valuable supporters.
The Sanford years, though, have been marked by pitched battles with Republicans in the state House, leaving the state capital mired in gridlock. And Sanford’s notorious trip to Argentina last summer, to visit a woman he was having an extramarital affair with, essentially destroyed his political influence.
It’s no surprise, then, that Haley isn’t embracing Sanford in her quest to replace him. After her final campaign event on Monday, Haley disputed the suggestion that she will be the governor’s “ideological heir” if elected.
“We are actually very different,” Haley told reporters. “While we agree philosophically our approaches will be very different. He was reactionary by nature to everything that the legislature did. I will actually be predictable. They will know what I do before I do it, and they will also know the consequences before they happen.”
Haley, who is running as an anti-establishment figure in the GOP primary, has said she has “been in the legislature long enough to know how they play, but no so long to be part of the fraternity party.”
“So they can’t pull one over on me, yet at the end of the day I don’t owe anybody anything,” she said.
Haley gave conflicting answers when asked if she has consulted Sanford for political advice during the race. Asked if she had, Haley said, “No.”
Pressed again, Haley said: “I have talked to him a couple of times, but never on policy advice or strategy.”
She did hint, however, that she would continue with one of Sanford’s favorite political tactics – taking sides into contested GOP primaries to elect reform-minded candidates.
“For every legislator that wants to work for good government, pro-business reforms, I am going to go into every one of their districts and praise them for it,” she boasted. “For every legislator that works against good government, pro-business reforms, I am going to go into every one of their districts and hold their hands to the fire.”