Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced Feb. 14 that she will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
She is the first major figure in the GOP to challenge former President Donald Trump, who has declared his intention to retake the White House.
Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump from 2017 to 2018, was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in South Carolina to immigrant Indian Punjabi Sikh parents.
In her video announcement, Haley discussed her childhood in Bamberg, S.C.: “The railroad tracks divided the town by race. I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not black, not white. I was different. But my mom would always say your job is not to focus on the differences but the similarities. And my parents reminded me and my siblings every day how blessed we were to live in America.”
If successful in the primaries, Haley would be first woman and first Asian American to be nominated for president by the Republican Party.
Other prominent Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, are also expected to throw their hat in the ring.
“The Washington establishment has failed us over and over and over again,” Haley said in the video. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership to rediscover fiscal responsibility, secure our border and strengthen our country, our pride and our purpose.”
Haley never mentions Trump by name in the video.
During the 2016 Republican primaries, Haley initially supported Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and then Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but ultimately said she would back the party’s nominee.
Although Haley once said that she would not seek the presidency if Trump was running, the former president recently told reporters that she had called to tell him she was considering a campaign launch and that he had responded, “You should do it.”
In a statement to CNN, Trump said, “I told her she should follow her heart and do what she wants to do. I wish her luck!”
Haley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, becoming the first Indian American to hold office in that state. She was re-elected in 2006 and 2008. She was elected governor in 2010 and is considered the third non-white governor elected in the South, after Douglas Wilder in Virginia and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, as well as the nation’s first female Asian American governor.
She was re-elected in 2014 but resigned during her second term to join the Trump Administration, becoming the first Indian American to serve at the Cabinet level.
She has boasted about her track record, saying, “I’ve never lost an election and I’m not going to start now.”
In her announcement, Haley touted her experience as ambassador to the U.N.: “Some look at our past as evidence that America’s founding principles are bad. They say the promise of freedom is just made up. Some think our ideas are not just wrong, but racist and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen evil. In China they commit genocide. In Iran they murder their own people for challenging the government. And when a woman tells you about watching soldiers throw her baby into a fire it puts things into perspective. Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.”
“Some people look at America and see vulnerability,” Haley said. “The socialist left sees an opportunity to rewrite history. China and Russia are on the march. They all think we can be bullied, kicked around. You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies and when you kick back it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”
She was governor when nine Black parishioners were murdered in Charleston church in 2015 by an avowed white supremacist who had been pictured holding Confederate flags. Haley, who had previously supported flying the Confederate flag on statehouse grounds, signed a bill to authorize removal of the flag after the massacre.
Haley, 51, and her husband, Michael Haley, have two children.
“Not in Her Prime”
CNN’s Don Lemon was temporarily suspended from his morning show after making sexist and ageist remarks about Haley on Feb. 16.
After Haley suggested that anyone over 75 who runs for president should have to take a test for cognitive function, Lemon responded, “This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people … politicians or something are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry. When a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Lemon was immediately challenged by his co-host Poppy Harlow. CNN Chairman Chris Licht later announced that Lemon had agreed to undergo formal training.
In a written apology, Lemon said, “The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ … was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”