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Nikki Haley
ਨਿਮਰਤਾ ਨਿੱਕੀ ਹੈਲੀ
Haley smiling
Haley in 2022
29th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
January 27, 2017 – December 31, 2018
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Samantha Power
Succeeded by Kelly Craft
116th Governor of South Carolina
In office
January 12, 2011 – January 24, 2017
  • Ken Ard
  • Glenn F. McConnell
  • Yancey McGill
  • Henry McMaster
Preceded by Mark Sanford
Succeeded by Henry McMaster
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 87th district
In office
January 11, 2005 – January 11, 2011
Preceded by Larry Koon
Succeeded by Todd Atwater
Personal details
Nimarata Nikki Randhawa

(1972-01-20) January 20, 1972 (age 52)
Bamberg, South Carolina, U.S.
Political party Republican
Michael Haley
(m. 1996)
Children 2
Education Clemson University (BS)
  • Politician
  • diplomat
  • author
  • businesswoman

Nimarata Nikki Haley (née Randhawa; born January 20, 1972) is an American politician and diplomat who served as the 116th governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, and as the 29th United States ambassador to the United Nations for two years, from January 2017 through December 2018. A member of the Republican Party, she is the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, and earned an accounting degree from Clemson University. She joined her family's clothing business before serving as treasurer and then president of the National Association of Women Business Owners. First elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, she served three terms. In 2010, during her third term, she was elected governor of South Carolina and re-elected in 2014.

Haley was the first female governor of South Carolina and the second governor of Indian descent (after fellow Republican Bobby Jindal of Louisiana).

Haley resigned as governor to become US ambassador to the United Nations, thereby joining the Trump administration in January 2017. She was confirmed by a bipartisan majority of 96–4 by the United States Senate. She stepped down as ambassador on December 31, 2018.

Haley announced her campaign for President of the United States in February 2023. After the Iowa caucuses, Haley and Trump became the only remaining major candidates in the Republican primaries. She campaigned directly against Trump for almost two months, defeating him in the District of Columbia and Vermont primaries before suspending her campaign after a comprehensive defeat to Trump on Super Tuesday.

Early life and education

Haley was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa on January 20, 1972, at Bamberg County Hospital in Bamberg, South Carolina, to immigrant Punjabi Sikh parents. Her father, Ajit Singh Randhawa, and her mother, Raj Kaur Randhawa, immigrated to the United States from Amritsar, Punjab, India. Her father had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, and her mother received her law degree from the University of Delhi. Haley has been known by her middle name, Nikki, a Punjabi name meaning "little one", since her earliest years.

Haley's parents moved from India to Canada after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. When her father received his PhD in 1969, he moved his family to South Carolina to be a professor of biology at Voorhees College, a historically black institution.

Her mother, Raj Randhawa, earned a master's degree in education and taught for seven years in Bamberg public schools. In 1976 she started a popular women's clothing boutique, Exotica International. The store closed in 2008 upon her retirement 32 years later.

At age 12, Haley began helping with the bookkeeping in her mother's clothing shop. In 1989, she graduated from the private Orangeburg Preparatory Schools. She graduated from Clemson University in 1994 with a BS degree in accounting.

First decade after college (1995–2004)

After graduating from college, Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining her family's clothing business as its bookkeeper and chief financial officer.

She married Michael Haley in 1996. She later became active in civic affairs. In 1998, she was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce. She was named to the board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Haley became treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003, and president in 2004.

Haley chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for a local hospital. She also served on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff's Foundation, and West Metro Republican Women. She was the president of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and was chair for the 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign.

South Carolina House of Representatives (2005–2011)

Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005 and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly. She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot at the time.

One of Haley's stated goals was to lower taxes. When Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina, Haley voted against a proposed cigarette surtax despite criticism that the revenue from the tax would have been used for smoking prevention programs and cancer research related to smoking. She voted for a bill that raised sales taxes from five cents per dollar to six cents per dollar. The bill exempted sales tax on unprepared food such as canned goods. The same bill also exempts property tax on "owner-occupied residential property" except for the taxes due from what is still owed on the property.

Haley implemented a plan in which teachers' salaries would be based on not only seniority and qualifications but also job performance, as determined by evaluations and reports from principals, students, and parents. She supports school choice and charter schools.

Haley supports barring legislators from collecting legislative pensions while in office. She believes such pensions should be based on only the $10,400 legislative salary instead of the salary plus lawmakers' $12,000 annual expense allowance.

Haley has stated that, as a daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced. She voted in favor of a law that requires employers to be able to prove that newly hired employees are legal residents of the United States, and also requires all immigrants to carry documentation at all times proving that they are legally in the United States. Haley signed an "Arizona-style" law in June 2011. Much of the act was blocked by the federal courts, which found several key provisions to be unconstitutional.

As a state legislator, her assignments included the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry, and the Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs. She had several caucus memberships as well, including the Freshman Caucus, 2005–2006 (chair), the Sportsman's Caucus, and the Women's Caucus, 2007 (Vice Chair).

Governor of South Carolina (2011–2017)

Haley took office as governor in January 2011. In 2012, former governor Mitt Romney considered her for his vice-presidential running mate. Haley said that she would turn down any potential vice presidential offer.

During her second term, Haley feuded with veteran lawmakers in the General Assembly. She endorsed powerful senate finance chairman Hugh Leatherman's primary opponent in 2016. After winning the primary, Leatherman stated that Haley was not just a lame duck, but a "dead duck". Her second term as governor was set to expire on January 9, 2019; however, Haley resigned her position on January 24, 2017, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Haley delivered the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016.

In 2016, Haley was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Haley was mentioned in January 2016 as a potential candidate for vice presidency in the 2016 presidential election. On May 4, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee, Haley said she had no interest in the vice presidential nomination.

Four lieutenant governors served under Haley. Haley, a Republican, welcomed Yancey McGill, a Democrat, to serve as her lieutenant governor after Glenn F. McConnell's resignation. Haley was initially against having a Democrat serve as the second-in-command to the governor, but she, along with the Senate, eventually agreed otherwise.

On December 17, 2012, Haley announced she would appoint Tim Scott to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Jim DeMint, who previously announced that he would retire from the Senate to become the president of the Heritage Foundation. Following his appointment, Scott became the first African American U.S. senator from South Carolina.

Haley chose Scott over others on her short list, including Representative Trey Gowdy, former South Carolina attorney general Henry McMaster, former First Lady of South Carolina Jenny Sanford, and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton.

In July 2013, Haley was fined $3,500 by the State Ethics Commission and given a "public warning" for failing to report the addresses of eight donors during her 2010 campaign for governor.

In August 2013, Haley signed an extradition order for Dusten Brown to be brought to South Carolina in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case.

Gubernatorial policies

Upon becoming governor, Haley appointed Bobby Hitt as the state's secretary of commerce. In her State of the State address and other speeches, she touted South Carolina's economic growth and low unemployment rate, and urged businesses to move to the state based on a low cost of doing business, "a loyal, willing workforce," and South Carolina's status as "one of the lowest union-participation states in the country."

Prime Minister Modi meets South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in New York
Haley and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in New York on September 28, 2014

In April 2016, Haley indicated she would not support an anti-trans "bathroom bill" introduced by the South Carolina State Senate that would require transgender individuals to use restrooms based on their gender assigned at birth. Haley said that the legislation was unncessary and would not solve any identifiable problem in the state.

In 2021, Haley spoke against Executive Order 13988, officially titled Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.

Ambassador Nikki Haley visit June 2017 Ambassador Nikki Haley vi (35064841051)
Haley with Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman in 2017

Haley has been described by South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham as a "strong supporter of the State of Israel". As governor, she signed a anti-BDS law to stop efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This legislation was the first of its kind on a statewide level. Haley also stated that "nowhere has the UN's failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel".

Haley supports voter photo ID laws.

United States ambassador to the United Nations (2017–2018)

Dan Sullivan and Nikki Haley
Haley meeting with Sen. Dan Sullivan shortly after her nomination to become US ambassador to the United Nations. (Sullivan was member of the House at the time.)

Defining aspects of Haley's tenure as U.S. ambassador include her consistently strong advocacy for Israel, her defense of the Trump administration's 2018 withdrawal of the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, and her withdrawal of the U.S. from the United Nations Human Rights Council (a move reversed under the Biden administration, when the U.S. rejoined the council). She defended the Trump administration's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement (a move also later reversed, as the Biden administration reentered the agreement). As ambassador, Haley sometimes took positions at odds from the Trump White House; she announced that the U.S. would impose new sanctions on Russia and on the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, but new sanctions were blocked by the White House.

On October 9, 2018, she resigned as the U.N. ambassador, effective December 31, 2018. Haley was succeeded in the post by Kelly Craft.

Post-United Nations interlude (2019–2022)

In 2019, Haley created a new 501(c)(4) advocacy group, Stand for America. Stand for America did not disclose its donors, but a document subsequently obtained by the press showed that it raised $71 million in 2019 from several billionaires and well-known Republican Party megadonors, including Paul Singer, Stanley Druckenmiller, and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, and Scott Bessent.

In February 2019, Haley was nominated to the board of directors of Boeing; she was elected at the annual shareholder meeting in April 2019. Haley had previously fought a unionization effort at Boeing South Carolina plant in North Charleston, where the 787 Dreamliner is produced. She supported a 2009 economic development package, valued at up to $900 million, to incentivize Boeing to relocate the 787 Dreamliner production facility in this city, and, as governor, approved an additional $120 million to Boeing for its expansion. Boeing board members earn at least $315,000 a year (as of 2017, the most recent figures available). In March 2020, Haley resigned from Boeing's board of directors, saying she disagreed with the company's decision to request federal stimulus or bailout funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nikki Haley and Glenn Youngkin 2
Haley endorses Glenn Youngkin's gubernatorial campaign in 2021

In October 2021, Haley was selected to replace David Wilkins for a lifetime position on the Clemson University Board of Trustees.

Presidential campaign (2023–2024)

In July 2022, Haley hinted at a potential run for the 2024 United States presidential election during her speech at the Christians United for Israel summit in Washington, D.C. Her strong stance against any potential Iran nuclear deal resonated, as she asserted her readiness to "shred" such an agreement on her first day in office.

On February 14, 2023, Haley formally announced her candidacy, becoming the second major candidate to enter the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, following Trump's earlier announcement. Notably, she had previously stated she would not run if Trump also sought the nomination, indicating the complex dynamics within the party.

Haley's candidacy marked a historic moment as she became the fifth woman and the first woman of color to contend for the Republican presidential nomination. Despite being considered a serious contender for the nomination, Haley faced an uphill battle against the political juggernaut that was Trump, as well as the rising star DeSantis.

Throughout her campaign, Haley garnered endorsements from key figures within the party, including the governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu, U.S. Representatives—Ralph Norman and Will Hurd, as well as Cindy Warmbier, the mother of Otto Warmbier. In November 2023, Haley received the endorsement of Americans for Prosperity Action, an organization connected to the Koch network, further solidifying her position in the race.

However, despite her efforts and achievements, Haley faced setbacks as the primaries progressed. In early January 2024, CNN reported that Haley had polled within single digits of Trump (at 32%, to Trump's 39%) in New Hampshire, indicating a significant level of support but also highlighting the challenges she faced.

On January 15, 2024, Haley finished in third place in the Iowa caucuses with 19% of the vote, behind Trump with 51% and DeSantis with 21%. Notably, she prevailed over Trump by one vote in Johnson County, showcasing pockets of support within the state.

On January 19, former presidential candidate and current U.S. senator Tim Scott endorsed Trump for president, sparking commentary on his decision to endorse Trump over Haley, who had appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012.

Despite winning the District of Columbia Republican primary with 62% of the vote on March 3, 2024, and the Vermont Republican Party primary with 50% of the vote on March 5, Haley announced in a speech in Charleston, the suspension of her campaign on March 6, 2024, one day after Super Tuesday, signaling the end of her bid for the presidency.

Haley is the first women to have ever won a race in a Republican primary.

Personal life

Nikki Haley and her family 2023
Haley and her family in 2023

In September 1996, Nikki Randhawa married Michael Haley. They celebrated with both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies. The couple have two children, a daughter and a son.

Haley converted to Christianity in 1997. She and her husband regularly attend the United Methodist Church. She also attends Sikh services once or twice a year. She visited the Harmandir Sahib with her husband in 2014 during her visit to India. During a Christianity Today interview, when asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity, Haley responded, "What I hope is that my parents do what's right for them."

Haley is a taekwondo practitioner; she earned her 4th-dan black belt in 2013.

Her husband, an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard, had a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2013.

Haley and her family reside in Kiawah Island, South Carolina near the city of Charleston.

Haley has an estimated net worth of $8 million.


  • Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story, Sentinel, New York (2012).
  • With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, St. Martin's Press, New York (2019).
  • A Better Blueprint for International Organizations: Advancing American Interests on the Global Stage, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, (2021)
  • If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women, St. Martin's Press, New York (2022).

Awards and honors

Haley was inducted into the Order of the Palmetto in 2010. She has two honorary degrees: a Doctorate of Humanities from Clemson University (2018) and a Doctorate of Public Service from the University of South Carolina (2015). She has received awards from India Abroad, the International Republican Institute, Christians United for Israel, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Hudson Institute, the Independent Women's Forum, UN Watch, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Enterprise Institute, and the World Jewish Congress.

See also

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