Sanford helps out Haley

Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (center) and former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford greet supporters Friday at the Charleston Music Hall.

Jenny Sanford and GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley campaigned together in Charleston Friday morning, and Haley ended the day by appearing with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Columbia.

"I don't know that it gets any better than starting the day with Jenny Sanford and finishing it off with Sarah Palin," Haley said. "This is a great day of two strong women coming out for conservative values."

The former first lady praised Haley as the best candidate to take up the work her ex-husband began. Gov. Mark Sanford has served two terms and can't run again this fall.

"I think Nikki is the one who can actually make it happen," she said. "I'm also loving the fact that she's a woman."

Haley and Jenny Sanford began the day at a fundraiser breakfast, then appeared before about 20 people at the Charleston Music Hall. The crowd was small enough to move the event from the performance space to the lobby.

Haley talked about the need to lower taxes, reduce state spending and increase governmental transparency, particularly before taking questions from supporters and reporters.

Her message resonated with Sam Kirton, 71, of Ladson, who said he was concerned about the national debt. "Pretty soon we're going to be like Greece," he said.

Jenny Sanford, who endorsed Haley months ago, said she first got to know Haley when former GOP chairman Katon Dawson urged her to call Haley, then a state House candidate, and give her a pep talk.

Haley won that race and has become one of the governor's staunchest allies in Columbia.

She also said Haley has some advantages in her quest to continue Gov. Sanford's attempts to strengthen the power of the governor.

"By definition, you're fighting for something the legislators are not going to want because you're asking them to give up their own power. It's a tough battle no matter who's doing it," she said.

"Nikki has a little bit of an advantage because she's been in the system and she's seen it from the inside. That's one advantage. Another is Mark Sanford has opened the doors for her. He's put the debate out there."

Jenny Sanford said while she loved campaigning for Haley Friday, she said the campaign trail would take a back seat to her focus on her four sons.

Haley faces S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in the June 8 Republican primary.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.