Nikki Haley: Daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants destine to be South Carolina Governor
South Carolina State’s Nikki Haley denotes America’s success story: born to immigrant Indian Sikh parents Ms. Haley has faced all odds to emerge last Tuesday as the front runner of this state defined by church, flag and family.
She was once an unknown state legislator with no name recognition in this state. She transcended an enormous obstacle having the Indian-American heritage to become the next Republican Party chief executive (governor) of this state.
When she announced her candidacy last year she came to be known as a daughter of Sikhs (who was born Nimrata Randhawa) emigrated to the United States from Amritsa in the Indian state of Punjab in 1963.
Last Tuesday’s primary election for the Republican Party nomination for this November’s governor’s race the 38-year old Nikki Haley emerged as the front runner for her party’s nominations.
One of her own party state legislator called her a ‘raghead’ a racial epithet.
One media report said that despite this state legacy, Haley has used her own ethnic heritage to underscore her conservative free-market values. While not dwelling on the exoticism of her family background in South Carolina, she did stress in a Friday speech in Rock Hill, "I am the daughter of immigrant parents who reminded us every day how lucky we are to live in this country. They love the fact that you could start something, grow it as you want, be as successful as you want to be and nothing would get in their way."
New York Times described when she entered the top-floor suite of a luxurious office building in the state capital Columbia late Tuesday the primary election day, Nikki Haley passed an oil painting of nine former South Carolina governors. All were men, all were white, seated behind a long table like a political version of “The Last Supper.”
The local media predicted If she can maintain her momentum, Ms. Haley will make a most unlikely member of the club.
On Tuesday, Ms. Haley, a 38-year-old Indian-American state representative with strong ties to the conservative movement, emerged as the front-runner to become the next governor of South Carolina. Winning 49 percent of the votes in the Republican primary, she trounced three white male rivals with longer careers, higher titles and larger bank accounts, although she fell just short of avoiding a runoff with the second-place finisher, Representative J. Gresham Barrett.
All that stands between her and the palmetto-lined Governor’s Mansion — not insignificantly — is the June 22 runoff against Mr. Barrett and the general election in November.
In the U.S. primary elections are held within major political parties to get nominations, and only party cardholding members are eligible to vote. Ms. Haley is seeking a state-wide elected position: Governor who has executive powers, a very powerful position in a state.
Reports from South Carolina indicate that already national Republican leaders are heralding Ms. Haley as the presumptive nominee and likely next governor.
Ms. Haley, who has been married for 13 years and has two young children, was born in the small town of Bamberg, in central South Carolina, to Sikh parents who emigrated from India. Beginning at age 13, she said, she worked after school at her parents’ clothing store. She earned an accounting degree from Clemson University, then helped turn her family’s business into a multimillion-dollar operation, according to her campaign.
Her candidacy has been supported by the former Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who herself is emerging as a potential presidential candidate in the 2012 election.
Who is Nikki Haley
Nikki is a graduate of Clemson University with a B.S. in Accounting. After graduation, shei became the Accounting Supervisor of FCR, Inc. in Charlotte, NC, where she managed a staff that was responsible for the accounting and reporting of the corporation and five of its subsidiary companies.
In 1996, after educating herself in the corporate world, she returned as Controller in the family business, Exotica International, Inc, where she started at the age of 11.
She served as member of the Board of Directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce before the business relocated to Lexington County.
Currently, she serves as a member of the Board of Directors, the Government Relations Committee, and the Doris Burkett Scholarship Committee of the Lexington County Chamber and is co-chairing the Lexington Gala for 2004.
Ms. Haley is also the Treasurer and President-Elect of the Greater Columbia Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, a member of the Lexington Medical Foundation and 2004 Lake Murray Dam Walk Committee benefiting Becky’s Place, the West Metro Republican Women, the Lexington County Republicans, Magnolia Junior Women’s Society of Lexington, the PTA, and Homeroom Mom for her daughter’s kindergarten class.
# In addition to community involvement, Nikki is dedicated to her parents, sister and her family, and husband Michael, all of which own their own businesses in Lexington. Nikki and Michael, have two children, Rena 5 and Nalin 2.
Her father is a retired professor of biology who chaired the department of natural and computer sciences at Voorhees College. Ms. Haley’s fighting spirit comes from her mother, Raj Randhawa, a businesswoman who started Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm with a revenue of $1.8 million in 2003, according to Nikki's father Ajit Randhawa.
Indian Community in the U.S.
The US is home to about 1.6 million Indian origin people, making them the third-largest immigrant group in the country after Mexicans and Filipino, a Washington-based think tank has said.
Between 2007 and 2008, the number of Indian immigrants surpassed the number of Chinese and Hong Kong-born immigrants for the first time since at least 1960, said the Migration Policy Institute in its latest report.
Indian immigration to the US, a fairly recent phenomenon, grew rapidly during the 1990s and 2000s.
In addition, people with Indian ancestry have also immigrated to the US from the Caribbean, East Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Indians are heavily concentrated in California and New Jersey. Compared to other immigrant groups, the Indian foreign born are much better educated - nearly three-quarters of Indian-born adults have a bachelor's degree or higher.
About one-quarter of Indian-born men in the labor force work in the information technology industry. Nearly half of all Indian immigrants resided in California, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.
California had the largest number of Indian immigrants (303,497 or 18.7 per cent of the Indian-born population) in 2008, followed by New Jersey (187,732, or 11.6 per cent) and New York (141,738, or 8.7 per cent).
Texas (131,729, or 8.1 per cent), Illinois (129,187, or 8.0 per cent), Pennsylvania (65,014, or 4.0 per cent), Florida 59,169, or 3.6 per cent), Georgia (54,111, or 3.3 per cent), Virginia (53,674, or 3.3 per cent), and Michigan (49,167, or 3.0 per cent) are the other cities with substantial Indian-origin population.
In 2008, the Indian born made up 10.9 per cent of all immigrants in New Jersey and 10.3 per cent of all immigrants in West Virginia.
They were also about one in 10 immigrants in Pennsylvania (9.8 per cent), Delaware (9.7 per cent), New Hampshire (9.5 per cent), and Ohio (9.5 per cent).
The Indian immigrant population more than doubled in 10 states between 2000 and 2008.
These states, which generally had small Indian immigrant populations in 2000, include Montana (from 253 to 1,009), Utah (from 2,030 to 5,629), Nevada (from 2,511 to 6,750), Idaho (from 845 to 2,269), Arizona (from 9,134 to 22,731) and Washington (from 14,714 to 36,435).
- Asian Tribune -