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Nikki Haley was elected governor of South Carolina in 2010, becoming both the first female and Indian-American to fill the role.
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Nikki Haley was born on January 20, 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Sikh immigrants. The Republican entered politics at a young age, and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for several years before becoming governor of the state. In addition to being the first female governor in South Carolina, she is the first Indian-American, and the second Indian-American governor in the country after Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana.
"The fact that I happen to be an Indian female, of course that brings a new dynamic. But what I hope it does is cause a conversation in this state where we no longer live by layers, but we live by philosophies."
"The people of South Carolina gave me a chance. I have a job to do, and I'm not going to leave my job for anything."
Republican South Carolina Governor Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, better known as Nikki Haley, was born on January 20, 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She attended local schools and graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Haley went on to work for her mother's upscale clothing business, Exotica International, helping to make it a multimillion-dollar company.
In 1998, Haley was named to the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, and in 2003, to that of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. She became president of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2004 and immersed herself in a number of organizations, including the Lexington Medical Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, and the South Carolina Chapter of NAWBO.
Haley converted to Christianity and sits on the board of the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church. Out of respect for her parents' culture, she still attends Sikh services.
Haley ran for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, and faced a challenge in the primary from incumbent Republican Larry Koon, the longest-serving member of the House at that time. She won the primary and then the general election, in which she ran unopposed, and became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina. She ran unopposed for re-election in 2006, and defeated her Democrat challenger in 2008.
As a Republican, Haley's platform was anti-tax and fiscally conservative. She voted for bills that restrict abortion and those that protect fetuses. As the child of legal immigrants, Haley has expressed support for greater enforcement of immigration laws.
Haley, who is also a member of the Tea Party movement, announced in May 2009 that she would run for governor in 2010. She was endorsed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Jenny Sanford, incumbent first lady of South Carolina. She won the election, and was elected governor on November 2, 2010.
Prior to Haley's election, she was accused of having affairs with two different men, Will Folks, former press secretary for then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and Larry Marchant, a political consultant for Haley's opponent, Andre Bauer. Folks said he had an inappropriate physical relationship with Haley several years prior, and Marchant said he and Haley had a one-time sexual encounter. Haley denied the events, saying that she had been faithful to her husband, Michael Haley.
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