Nikki Haley for governor
It's been a dirty campaign for governor, with most of the dirt thrown toward Republican nominee Nikki Haley. Much of the mud-slinging reflects a failure of the opposition to engage Rep. Haley's campaign on the merits of her ideas. That's because her views on government streamlining, public frugality and improving our business climate resonate across the state. South Carolina voters should elect Nikki Haley governor on Tuesday.
Many of Rep. Haley's ideas about government are similar to those of Gov. Mark Sanford. Her critics contend because Gov. Sanford couldn't advance most of his proposals for improving state government, neither will Rep. Haley.
According to that view, Rep. Haley will be no more persuasive than Gov. Sanford and is sure to be marginalized unless she toadies up to the legislative branch.
But South Carolina voters elect their governor to be the chief executive of the state, not a stooge for the Legislature. The governor has a mandate and a duty to lead. While that includes seeking practical accommodations with the legislative leadership, it also assumes reciprocity by state lawmakers.
Nikki Haley has expressed her willingness to work with the Legislature, and House Speaker Bobby Harrell has pledged his cooperation. South Carolina should expect no less of the Senate leadership.
Mrs. Haley, a three-term representative from Lexington County, demonstrated her willingness to stand up to the powers in the House and Senate in her effort to force more recorded votes by the Legislature. As governor, she would be no less inclined to take on legislators if they work to derail her program. She said as much in a recent speech to Citadel cadets.
How many legislators will be willing to stand against budgetary reform in a year when state government revenues are expected to fall as much as another $1 billion? How many will be prepared to sabotage a strategy to bring in more businesses and jobs?
Only an optimist would have undertaken Rep. Haley's run for the governor's seat, yet she was able to soundly defeat three well-known, well-financed opponents in the primary. Rep. Haley has been overcoming odds all her life, as the daughter of Indian immigrants in small-town South Carolina, and as a virtually unknown challenger for the House seat held by the then-longest-serving member of the Legislature.
She grew up working in her family's business, where she learned an enduring lesson: "How hard it was to make a dollar, and how easy it was for the government to take it."
Despite the ugly realities of campaigning, she remains optimistic about serving as South Carolina's chief executive.
Economic downturns are generally followed by upswings, and South Carolina could benefit from a governor who is committed to being an "ambassador" for business growth. Rep. Haley's program will be driven by the need for a simplified tax structure, an educated workforce and improved infrastructure.
There is one area where her opponent, Vincent Sheheen, makes a stronger pitch, and that's on the environment. Rep. Haley needs to recognize the importance of conservation to the state, its heritage and its economy.
Otherwise, Rep. Haley's views on government spending, accountability and reform should encourage support from South Carolina's voters. She sees the current budget disaster as a way to begin reordering the state's fiscal priorities.
"The best decisions are made during the hardest times," she said.
For South Carolina's voters, that time is now.