Nikki Haley

Nimrata Nikki Haley is an American politician, diplomat, businesswoman, and author who served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017 and as the 29th United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2017 to 2018. A member of the Republican Party, Haley was the first female governor of South Carolina and the first female Indian-American governor elected in the United States.
Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina and studied accountancy at Clemson University. First elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, Haley served three terms. In 2010, during her third term, she was elected governor of South Carolina and won re-election in 2014.
During her governorship, the South Carolina Department of Commerce recruited more than 85,000 new jobs and $21.5 billion in capital investment. In 2015, Haley signed legislation calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol. She was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016.
On November 23, 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Haley for the position of United States ambassador to the United Nations. Haley was confirmed to that post by the U.S. Senate in a 96 to 4 vote, and was sworn in on January 25, 2017. As U.N. ambassador, she affirmed the United States's willingness to use military force in response to further North Korean missile tests in the wake of the 2017 North Korea crisis; she was also an outspoken supporter of Israel. Haley voluntarily stepped down from her position on December 31, 2018.

Early life and education

Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa to an Indian Punjabi American Sikh family in Bamberg, South Carolina. She has always been called Nikki by her family, which means "Little One" in Punjabi. Her father, Ajit Singh Randhawa, and her mother, Raj Kaur Randhawa, immigrated to the United States from Amritsar District, Punjab, India. Her father was formerly a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, and her mother received her law degree from the University of Delhi.
Haley's parents moved to Canada after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. When her father received his PhD degree in 1969, he moved his family to South Carolina, after accepting a position as a professor at Voorhees College, a historically black institution.
Her mother, Raj Randhawa, earned a master's degree in education and taught for seven years in the Bamberg public schools. In 1976 she started a clothing company, Exotica International.
When Nikki Randhawa was five years old, her parents attempted to enter her in the "Miss Bamberg" contest. Reflecting a history of racial segregation, the contest traditionally crowned both an African-American queen and a white queen. Since the judges decided Randhawa did not fit either category, they disqualified her.
Nikki has one sister and two brothers. Her sister Simran, born in Canada, became a radio host and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna. Her brother Mitti retired as a member of the United States Army Chemical Corps having served in Desert Storm; her second brother, Charan, is a web designer.
At the age of 12, Randhawa began helping with the bookkeeping in her mother's ladies' clothing shop, Exotica International. In 1989, she graduated from the private Orangeburg Preparatory Schools.
She graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Early career

After graduating from Clemson University, Randhawa worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining her family's clothing business. She later became Exotica International's comptroller and chief financial officer.
Randhawa married Michael Haley in 1996. She later became busy in civic affairs. In 1998, she was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce. She was named to the board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Haley became treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003, and president in 2004.
Haley chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for a local hospital. She also served on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff's Foundation, and West Metro Republican Women. She was the president of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and was chair for the 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign.

Political career

South Carolina House of Representatives

In 2004, Haley ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives to represent District 87 in Lexington County. She challenged incumbent state representative Larry Koon in the Republican primary. He was the longest-serving legislator in the South Carolina Statehouse. Her platform included property tax relief and education reform. In the primary election, she forced a runoff as Koon did not win a majority, but 42% of the vote. She placed second with 40% of the vote. In the runoff, she defeated him 55–45%.
She ran unopposed in the general election. Haley is the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina. She was unopposed for re-election to a second term in 2006. In 2008, she won re-election to a third term, defeating Democrat Edgar Gomez 83–17%.


Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005 and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly. She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot at the time.

Fiscal policy

One of Haley's stated goals was to lower taxes. When Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina, Haley voted against a proposed cigarette surtax despite criticism that the revenue from the tax would have been used for smoking prevention programs and cancer research related to smoking. She voted for a bill that raised sales taxes from five cents per dollar to six cents per dollar. The bill exempted sales tax on unprepared food such as canned goods. The same bill also exempts property tax on "owner-occupied residential property" except for the taxes due from what is still owed on the property.


Haley implemented a plan in which teachers' salaries would be based on not only seniority and qualifications but also job performance, as determined by evaluations and reports from principals, students, and parents. She supports school choice and charter schools.

Legislative pensions

Haley supports barring legislators from collecting legislative pensions while they're in office. She believes such pensions should be based on only the $10,400 legislative salary instead of the salary plus lawmakers' $12,000 annual expense allowance.

Immigration policy

Haley has stated that, as a daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced. She voted in favor of a law that requires employers to be able to prove that newly hired employees are legal residents of the United States, and also requires all immigrants to carry documentation at all times proving that they are legally in the United States. Haley signed an "Arizona-style" law cracking down on illegal immigration in June 2011. The law is the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the United States Justice Department on numerous grounds, including claims the immigration law violates the Supremacy Clause. Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley, said, "If the feds were doing their job, we wouldn't have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level. But, until they do, we're going to keep fighting in South Carolina to be able to enforce our laws."


Haley describes herself as pro-life and has supported legislation to restrict abortion. She has stated "I'm not pro-life because the Republican Party tells me, I'm pro-life because all of us have had experiences of what it means to have one of these special little ones in our life."
Haley has consistently supported bills that give rights to a fetus and restrict abortion, except when the mother's life is at risk. In 2006, as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Haley voted for the Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law, which asserted that an act of violence against a fetus is akin to a criminal act against the mother. She also voted for two separate bills that required a woman to first look at an ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before being permitted to have an abortion. In 2016, she re-signed a new state law that bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Haley has voted in favor of some bills relating to abortion that were tabled or rejected, including the Inclusion of Unborn Child/Fetus in Definition for Civil Suits Amendment, Prohibiting Employment Termination Due to Abortion Waiting Period amendment, and Exempting Cases of Rape from Abortion Waiting Period amendment. The latter would have allowed specific cases of women to not have to wait the mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion.

Committee assignments

2010 gubernatorial election

On May 14, 2009, Haley announced that she would run for the Republican nomination for governor of South Carolina in the 2010 elections. Haley had been persuaded to run by incumbent governor and fellow Republican Mark Sanford. On November 11, 2009, she was endorsed by former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as Jenny Sanford, the incumbent first lady of South Carolina. Haley has old ties to the Chicago businessman and the Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar. Kumar reminisced in a 2016 interview, “Her father Ajit Singh Randhawa approached me in the summer of 2010 to support his daughter’s campaign to run for governor of South Carolina.” He became her largest donor. She was polling in last place in the GOP race before a surprise endorsement from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, three weeks before the primary vote.
The Republican gubernatorial primary took place on June 8, 2010, and Haley captured 49% of the vote, forcing a runoff election on June 22. Haley won handily in the runoff vote.
Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, defeating the Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen 51% to 47%. She is considered the third non-white person to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia's Douglas Wilder and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.

2014 re-election

On August 12, 2013, Haley announced she would seek a second term as governor. She faced a challenge in the Republican primary from Tom Ervin. However, Ervin withdrew and later contested the 2014 gubernatorial election as an independent.
As in 2010, Vincent Sheheen of the Democratic Party ran against Haley. Republican-turned-Independent Tom Ervin was also running in early stages of the contest, as were Libertarian Steve French and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves. The first public debate was held in Charleston on October 14 between French, Ervin, Haley, Reeves, and Sheheen. The second public debate in Greenville on October 21 again included all five candidates. A week after the second debate, Ervin withdrew from the race and endorsed Sheheen.
Haley was re-elected on November 4, 2014, with a 55.9 percent to 41.3 percent win, almost tripling her previous margin of victory over Sheheen in the 2010 gubernatorial election.


Haley began serving as governor of South Carolina in January 2011. Her second term as governor was set to expire on January 9, 2019; however, Haley resigned her position on January 24, 2017 to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Haley delivered the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016.
In 2016, Haley was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Lieutenant governors
Four lieutenant governors served under Haley. Haley, a Republican, welcomed Yancey McGill, a Democrat, to serve as her lieutenant governor after Glenn F. McConnell's resignation. Haley was initially against having a Democrat serve as the second-in-command to the governor, but she, along with the Senate, eventually agreed otherwise.
Fine by State Ethics Commission
In July 2013, Haley was fined $3,500 by the State Ethics Commission and given a "public warning" for failing to report the addresses of eight donors during her 2010 campaign for governor.
''Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl''
In August 2013, Haley signed an extradition order for Dusten Brown to be brought to South Carolina in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case.
Economic policies
Upon becoming governor, Haley appointed Bobby Hitt as the state's secretary of commerce. Under their leadership, the state announced the recruitment of more than 85,000 new jobs and $21.5 billion in capital investment.
In inviting business to move to South Carolina, she has said:
What I'm saying is, if you come to South Carolina, the cost of doing business is going to be low here. We are going to make sure that you have a loyal, willing workforce and we are going to be one of the lowest union-participation states in the country.
Confederate flag
Before June 2015, Haley supported flying the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. In the immediate aftermath of the Charleston church shooting, Haley did not take a position on removing the flag, saying, "I think the state will start talking about that again, and we'll see where it goes." On June 22, Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. She stated:
"These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain." Haley also said, "There is a place for that flag," but she added, "It's not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina."

In July 2015, Haley signed a bill to authorize removing the Confederate flag from the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol. In December 2019, she defended the people of South Carolina, saying that "some people" in South Carolina saw the flag as a representation of "service and sacrifice and heritage" before the flag was hijacked by the white supremacist mass killer Dylann Roof.
in New York on September 28, 2014
LGBT issues
In April 2016, Haley indicated she would not support legislation introduced by the South Carolina State Senate which would require transgender individuals to use restrooms based on biological sex instead of gender identity. Haley stated:
These are not instances that... y'all haven't reported on anything. I haven't heard anything that's come to my office. So when I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we're not hearing of anybody's religious liberties that are being violated, and we're, again, not hearing any citizens that feel like they are being violated in terms of freedoms.

Haley described such restroom legislation as unnecessary.
Haley has been described by South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham as a "strong supporter of the State of Israel". As governor of South Carolina, she signed into law a bill to stop efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This legislation was the first of its kind on a statewide level. Haley also stated that "nowhere has the UN's failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel".
Donald Trump
In 2016, Haley received extensive press coverage for saying the phrase "bless your heart" in response to an attack by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump had attacked her on Twitter for her call for him to release his tax records.
Haley was critical of Trump during the election, and was a supporter of Florida senator and candidate Marco Rubio. When Rubio dropped out of the election, she then supported candidate Ted Cruz. When Trump became the Republican finalist, she said that she would vote for him, but was "not a fan".
Voter ID laws
Haley supports Voter ID laws, laws requiring photo identification at the polls.
Dylann Roof prosecution
In regard to the state trial of Dylann Roof, Haley urged prosecutors to seek the death penalty against him.

Veto Record

During her 2011-2017 gubernatorial term, Haley vetoed 50 bills, 24 of which were overridden by the state legislature.
Total% of Total

United States ambassador to the United Nations

Nomination and confirmation

On November 23, 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Haley for ambassador to the United Nations. On January 20, 2017, President Trump sent Haley's nomination to the United States Senate. It has been reported that President Trump considered Haley for the position of secretary of state, which she declined.
On January 24, 2017, by a vote of 96-4, Haley was confirmed by the Senate to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The four senators that voted against Haley were senators Bernie Sanders, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, and Chris Coons Haley is the first Indian American to hold a cabinet level position. Shortly thereafter, she resigned as South Carolina governor and Lt. Governor Henry McMaster ascended into the governorship of South Carolina.
Haley was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 25, 2017. She met with United Nations secretary-general António Guterres on January 27, 2017, at the UN Headquarters in New York City.


On February 2, 2017, Haley declared to the U.N. Security Council that sanctions against Russia for its Crimean conflict would not be lifted until Russia returned control over the region to Ukraine. On June 4, 2017, Haley reported the United States would retain "sanctions strong and tough when it comes to the issue in Ukraine".
at his office in Jerusalem, June 7, 2017
On March 15, 2017, Haley said she would not support a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States should President Trump choose to enact one. Haley said she did not believe "we should ever ban anyone based on their religion" and that a Muslim ban would be "un-American".
On March 30, 2017, Haley stated that the U.S. would no longer focus on forcing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to leave power. This was a policy shift from former president Barack Obama's initial stance on Assad. On April 5, speaking to the U.N. Security Council a day after the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, Haley said Russia, Assad, and Iran "have no interest in peace" and attacks similar to this would continue occurring should nothing be done in response. A day later, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles toward the Shayrat Air Base in Syria. Haley called the strike a "very measured step" and warned that the U.S. was prepared "to do more" despite wishing it would not be required. On April 12, after Russia blocked a draft resolution meant to condemn the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, Haley criticized Russia, saying "We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people." June 28, while appearing before the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Haley credited President Trump's warning to Syria with stopping another chemical attack: "I can tell you due to the president's actions, we did not see an incident."
In April 2017, while holding her first session as president of the UN Security Council, Haley charged Iran and Hezbollah with having "conducted terrorist acts" for decades within the Middle East.
Haley said the U.S. military could be deployed in response to any further North Korean missile tests or usage of nuclear missiles and that she believed Kim Jong-un understood this due to pressure by both the U.S. and China. On May 14, 2017, after North Korea performed a ballistic missile test, Haley said Kim was "in a state of paranoia" after feeling pressure from the U.S. On June 2, 2017, after the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution adding fifteen North Koreans and four entities linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs to a sanctions blacklist, Haley said the council's vote was "sending a clear message to North Korea today: Stop firing ballistic missiles or face the consequences". On July 5, 2017, during a U.N. Security Council meeting, in response to North Korea launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, Haley announced the US would within days "bring before the Security Council a resolution that raises the international response in a way that is proportionate to North Korea's new escalation". The following month the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved sanctions on North Korea banning exports worth over $1 billion. Haley said that the sanctions package was "the single largest... ever leveled against the North Korean regime".
Also in April 2017, Haley spoke out against Ramzan Kadyrov and the abuse and murder of gay men in Chechnya. She stated that "We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation... this violation of human rights cannot be ignored".
In May 2017 interview, Haley expressed interest in moving the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On June 7, Haley charged the U.N. with having "bullied Israel for a very long time" and pledged the US would end this treatment while in Jerusalem. Israel occupied the Jordan-controlled East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967 and formally annexed it in 1980. The Jerusalem Law declared Jerusalem to be Israel's "undivided capital".
In July 2017, after the UNESCO voted to designate the Hebron's Old City and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian territory as well as endangered world heritage sites, Haley called the choice "tragic on several levels" in a statement.
– captured from Syria in the Six-Day War and formally annexed by Israel in 1981 – in June 2017
In September 2017, Haley stated that "some countries" were shielding Iran by blocking the International Atomic Energy Agency from verifying Iranian compliance with the international nuclear agreement with Iran. Haley said that it "appears that some countries are attempting to shield Iran from even more inspections. Without inspections, the Iran deal is an empty promise."
In September 2017, Haley said that her government was "deeply troubled" by reports of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Haley criticized Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for "justifying the imprisonment of the two Reuters reporters who reported on the ethnic cleansing."
In October 2017, the federal Office of Special Counsel determined that Haley had violated the federal Hatch Act in June 2017 by re-tweeting Trump's endorsement of Ralph Norman, a Republican candidate for Congress in South Carolina. Haley deleted the re-tweet after a complaint was filed by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Office of Special Counsel issued a reprimand by letter but did not recommend any further action be taken against Haley. The special counsel's letter warned Haley that any future violation could be considered "a willful and knowing violation of the law".
In October 2017, the U.S., along with 13 other nations, voted against a U.N. resolution titled "The Question of the Death Penalty", which condemned the use of capital punishment when "applied arbitrarily or in a discriminatory manner" and specifically condemned "the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations." LGBTQ rights advocates in the U.S., including the Human Rights Campaign, were critical of the vote. After the vote, a State Department spokeswoman announced that "We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution's approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances... The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization."
Egypt sponsored a Security Council resolution voiding any unilateral decisions on Jerusalem’s status. The resolution further demanded that countries “refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the holy city.” In December 2017, Haley warned UN members that she would be "taking names" of countries that voted to reject President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. In a letter, Haley wrote: "As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally. The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us." The resolution still passed by an overwhelming margin: 128 in favour, 35 abstaining and only nine against. Haley even travelled to some countries that voted “No,” such as Guatemala and Honduras, and thanked them for their support in the emergency special session.
Also in December 2017, Haley accused Iran of backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis are fighting the Saudi-backed Hadi government. She said that the "fight against Iranian aggression is the world's fight." Iranian U.N. mission spokesman Alireza Miryusefi said in response that "These accusations seek also to cover up for the Saudi war crimes in Yemen, with the US complicity, and divert attention from the stalemate war of aggression against the Yemenis." Iran likened Haley's presentation to that of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Haley also said that "It's hard to find a conflict or terrorist group in the Middle East that doesn't have Iran's fingerprints all over it", but she did not mention the U.S. role in Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and Saudi-led coalition's blockade of Yemen.
In December 2017, Haley said that the women who had accused President Trump of touching or groping them without their consent "should be heard."
On October 9, 2018, she tendered her resignation as the U.N. ambassador, which President Donald Trump accepted. Haley's resignation emerged a day after an anti-corruption watchdog accused her of accepting seven luxury private plane trips as gifts from South Carolina business leaders. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was the first to break this story after requesting an Inspector General investigation. Haley listed these seven flights as gifts on a 2018 financial disclosure, claiming that they are exempt from ethics violations as they were gifted by personal contacts. A spokesperson for CREW said they have no reason to believe that this was related to her resignation as ambassador.
In October 2018, Haley raised the issue of China's re-education camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority. She said that "At least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in so-called 're-education camps' in western China," and detainees are "tortured … forced to renounce their religion and to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party."
Haley left her position as U.N. ambassador on December 31, 2018.

Post-United Nations career

On February 26, 2019, it was announced that Haley had been nominated to the board of directors of Boeing. She was elected at the annual shareholder meeting on April 29. Critics have alleged that the position at Boeing may have been offered to Haley due to favorable official actions she took with regard to Boeing while in office in South Carolina. Boeing board members earn "a minimum annual compensation of $315,000 as of 2017, the most recent figures available in a regulatory filing." On March 19, 2020 Haley stepped down from the Board of Directors stating her disagreement with the board over a Government bailout during the global coronavirus crisis.
She supported Trump's January 2020 killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Haley stated on Fox News and later tweeted that Democrats were "mourning the loss of Soleimani." PolitiFact described her claim as a "complete fabrication."

Potential presidential or vice-presidential candidacy

2012 vice presidential speculation

In 2012, former governor Mitt Romney considered her for his vice-presidential running mate. In April 2012, Haley said that she would turn down any potential vice presidential offer: "I'd say thank you, but no, I made a promise to the people of this state. And I think that promise matters. And I intend to keep it."

2016 vice presidential speculation

Haley was mentioned in January 2016 as a potential candidate for the vice presidency in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Economist described Haley as a politician with high approval ratings who possesses a combination of "fiscal ferocity and a capacity for conciliation," and stated as a female candidate and ethnic minority she would have appeal. On May 4, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee, Haley denied interest in the vice presidential nomination.

Future political prospects

After Haley became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, multiple pundits opined that she could become a possible Republican presidential candidate in the future and could, in fact, win the White House. Trump was said by his staff to be grooming her in October 2017 for a national political role, having many private meetings with her on Air Force One after she had befriended his daughter, Ivanka.
Rumors circulating since 2018 among many Republican Party officials as well as some Democrats and those in the media theorizing that Haley could run for president in 2024 with some saying she would be a viable candidate for the Republicans and a tough opponent for Democrats.

Personal life

In September 1996, Nikki Randhawa married Michael Haley; they celebrated with both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies. The couple have two children, daughter Rena and son Nalin.
Haley converted to Christianity in 1997. She and her husband regularly attend the United Methodist Church. She also attends Sikh services once or twice a year. She visited the Harmandir Sahib with her husband in 2014 during her visit to India. During a Christianity Today interview, when asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity, Haley responded, "What I hope is that my parents do what's right for them."
Her husband is an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard. During her gubernatorial term, he was sent in January 2013 on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.