Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s 116th governor, will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address.
This will be the third year in a row a woman provides the nationally televised GOP response. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, delivered the response last year. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chairwoman of the Republican conference, gave the remarks.
Here are 29 facts about Haley, the lady to whom the nation’s eyes will turn Tuesday night:
- Haley is in her second four-year term serving as the first female and first minority governor of South Carolina.
- Haley’s parents, Ajit and Raj Randhawa, were immigrants from Punjab, India, who settled in Bamberg, S.C., in the 1970s. She was born in Bamberg in 1972.
- Growing up was tough, since her family was the first from India to reside in the small town. When Haley was about 5, she and her sister were disqualified from the Little Miss Bamberg pageant when the judges determined the girls didn’t fit in “white” or “black” categories.
- She was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa. Her family called her Nikki, which means “little one.”
- She is the second Indian-American governor in American history as well as South Carolina’s first Indian-American governor.
- First elected as governor in 2010, Haley in winning re-election victory had the largest margin of victory for a South Carolinian gubernatorial candidate in 24 years.
- She received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Clemson University in 1994.
- Her husband, Michael, is a captain in the Army National Guard. A combat veteran, he was deployed to Afghanistan and spent 11 months there in 2013.
- The couple met at Clemson and married in 1996.
- Michael and Nikki have two children—Rena, 17, and Nalin, 14.
- House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., chose Haley to deliver the Republican Address to the Nation. “I was honored,” Haley said in a formal statement. “This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities. I intend to speak about both.”
- Haley is part of the conservative tea party movement.
- Haley was one of many governors who opposed opening their state’s doors to Syrian refugees after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
- She called for removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse in June 2015. The flag was removed from the Capitol grounds in July.
- Haley made her decision about the Confederate flag after a young man who posed with one shot and killed nine people during a Bible study at a church in Charleston.
- At 43, she is currently the youngest governor in the nation. Her birthday is coming up, on Jan. 20.
- She wrote a memoir, “Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story,” published in 2012.
- Haley converted to Christianity from her parent’s Sikh religion. She attends Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington.
- In 2004, Haley was first elected to the state House of Representatives representing the Lexington County district. She beat the longest-serving House member at the time, Larry Koon, in the Republican primary. She ran unopposed in the general election.
- She was uncontested when she ran for re-election to the legislature in 2006. She defeated a Democratic challenger in 2008.
- Before rising to state elected office, Haley joined the boards of directors for the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998 and the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003.
- She started her first job at age 13, keeping the books for her family’s clothing store.
- The family clothing business, Exotica International, began in her family’s living room. She helped grow the business into a major success.
- “My parents started a business out of the living room of our home and, 30-plus years later, it was a multimillion dollar company,” Hakey said. “So, President Obama, with all due respect, don’t tell me that my parents didn’t build their business.”
- After college she worked at a recycling company as an account supervisor, but went back to her family’s clothing business as chief financial officer.
- In 2004 Haley became president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
- “I feel like I’m just an accountant and businessperson who wants to be a part of state government,” she said after winning 49 percent of the vote in the 2010 primary for governor.
- The South Carolina Federation of Republican Women in 2006 gave Haley the Strom Thurmond Excellence in Public Service and Government Award.
- In 2012, rumors had it that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney might choose Haley as his vice presidential running mate. Romney ended up picking Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and now speaker of the House—where Obama will speak Tuesday night.
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