Nikki Haley: The Fast Facts That May Surprise You

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Courage doesn’t come by doing what everybody else says. Courage does by what you know is right. — Nikki Haley

The former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s first United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley is the only female candidate running for president in the crowded Republican primaries. 

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley says she is sometimes labeled with the ‘A” word: ambitious. 

“If being ambitious is good at your job, then fine, you can call me ambitious,” Haley wrote in her book, With All Due Respect, “I will just consider myself a badass.”

Here are some more fast facts about Nikki Haley:

1. Her Family Encouraged Her Success

Born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa on January 20, 1972, Haley was the third child in a Sikh family in rural central South Carolina. 

Her father, Ajit Singh Randhawa, held a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia and taught at Voorhees College. Her mother, Raj Kaur Randhawa, was an accomplished woman from Punjab, India, who became a successful entrepreneur in South Carolina.

Although two of Haley’s older siblings were born in India, Haley was born in Bamberg, SC, a town with a population of roughly 2,500 at the time. The Randhawa’s were the first Indian family to move into the town, according to The Atlantic.

In her 2012 book Can’t Is Not an Option, Nikki Haley recalls that her parents never said “I love you” or coddled her siblings when they were upset: “[T]heir philosophy was that you don’t complain about problems, you do something about them,” Nikki wrote. 

Nikki wrote that her family set high expectations on her and she would dread bringing home anything less than a B. It wasn’t because her parents punished her, they didn’t, but the guilt of not meeting their expectations was punishment enough, according to Nikki.

2. She Changed Her Husband’s Name To Michael

On the first weekend of college, Nikki met the man who would become her husband — Michael Haley. 

Nikki describes Michael, who then went by Bill, as “quiet and cute.” Although he had a girlfriend at the time, the two hit it off. The next week, Nikki found out that Bill and his girlfriend had broken up. They stayed as friends for a while before they started dating. 

Shortly after they began dating, Nikki decided she liked Bill’s second name, Michael, better. 

“You just don’t look like a Bill,” she told him. 

She started calling him Michael, and the name stuck. 

Nikki and Michael dated for five years before he proposed to her in the botanical gardens on the Clemson campus. 

Her parents initially disapproved of the match because they would have preferred someone from their own background and religion. 

After two more years, Nikki and Michael finally got permission to marry — first in a service in a Sikh gurdwara in Columbia and then a month later in a ceremony in the United Methodist Church.

Soon after, Nikki converted to Christianity. “Michael and I talked about bringing up our children, and it was just natural that this was the religion that spoke to me,” she said.

3. She Challenged Traditional Politics

In 2004, Nikki Haley challenged the incumbent Larry Koon for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Despite rumors of Koon’s retirement, he chose to run again.

Haley kept herself motivated with a quote from a fortune cookie that read, “Winners do what losers don’t want to.” 

During the campaign, Koon’s team used deceptive tactics, falsely labeling her as a “Buddhist” and a “housekeeper,” and even using an image of her with her father wearing a turban. They also questioned her authenticity as a Republican. Despite these challenges, in a largely conservative district with a predominantly white Christian population, Haley managed to secure 40 percent of the vote in a three-way Republican primary, while Koon received 42 percent. This outcome forced a runoff, which Haley won with a 10-point lead in the subsequent head-to-head contest, according to Politico.

4. She Made History As Governor

In 2010, Nikki Haley decided to run for governor of South Carolina, facing tough competition despite the support of outgoing governor Mark Sanford.

She entered a GOP primary against notable opponents, including the lieutenant governor, attorney general, and a sitting member of Congress. Despite initially trailing in polls and fundraising, Haley persevered.

During her campaign, she encountered challenges like baseless allegations about her background and identity, as well as negative comments from opponents. 

Haley emphasized her Indian heritage and American values in her speeches. Her primary victory was hard-fought, and she won the gubernatorial race by a narrow margin.

Haley achieved two historic milestones when she was elected governor of South Carolina. She was not only the first person of color to hold this office but also the first woman. 

5. She Was Trump’s U.N. Ambassador

In 2017, Haley was asked by Trump to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. 

Haley agreed with three conditions: to work directly with Trump as part of his cabinet, to be involved in national security decisions, and to have the freedom to express her opinions. 

Trump agreed to all three.

“He was true to his word,” Haley said later, according to Politico. 

6. She Was Among The Top Three At The First Debate

According to a  FiveThirtyEight/Washington Post/Ipsos poll conducted immediately following the first Republican primary debate, Nikki Haley was viewed by those who watched as one of the top three performers that night. 

Haley impressed potential voters with her ability to hold her own on the stage, even using her gender to her advantage.

“This is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said, ‘If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman,” Haley said when the debate on climate change turned into a screaming match.

Haley also pushed strongly against gender ideology, which she said “is the women’s issue of our time.”

“I will always say I’m gonna fight for girls all day long. Because strong girls become strong women, strong women become strong leaders,” Haley said. “Biological boys don’t belong in the locker rooms of any of our girls.” 

Haley is definitely the epitome of a strong female leader. 

Whether she belongs in the White House is now up to the voters. 

Rachel Emmanuel

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