Haley will be replaced in Columbia by Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, despite her earlier criticism of him and endorsements of two of his Republican rivals.
If Haley is confirmed, Republican Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster will take over the Palmetto State’s governorship until a new governor is elected in 2018, keeping the seat in GOP hands.
Although Haley has little foreign policy experience, Trump, in a statement announcing her nomination, said she “has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country.”
“She is also a proven deal maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals,” Trump said.
Haley, 44, the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, is in her second term, having been elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She is the first woman ever elected as governor in South Carolina.
In a statement, she said the decision to leave the governorhsihp was “difficult” but that she accepted the U.N. ambassadorship out of “a sense of duty.”
“When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed,” she said.
Haley is best known nationally for her handling of the aftermath of a shooting at an African-American church in Charleston in 2015 that left nine people dead. Amid national attention to racial tension in her state, Haley persuaded state legislators to remove the Confederate battle flag from the top of the State House in Columbia.
Haley’s decision to take a spot in the Trump administration marks a turn away from her previously frosty relationship with the incoming president; less than a month ago she called him “irresponsible” for suggesting that the election would be rigged.
Last January, as the presidential race was heating up, Haley delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and gave what was seen at the time as a thinly veiled shot at Trump: “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.”
Then, just before the South Carolina presidential primary in February, Haley endorsed one of Trump’s GOP rivals, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. When Rubio dropped out in March, she then endorsed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump responded with a blast on Twitter in which he called her an embarrassment to the people of her state.
Haley never explicitly endorsed Trump during the campaign, although she did tell reporters at the Republican National Convention in July that she intended to vote for her party’s nominee.
McMaster, 69, served as the U.S. attorney in South Carolina from 1981 to 1985 and as state attorney general from 2003 to 2011. After an unsuccessful run for governor against Haley in 2010, he returned to statewide office by being elected lieutenant governor in 2014.
Unlike Haley, McMaster was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Trump, delivering one of his nominating speeches at the convention. After Trump won, he told the Associated Press that he had been contacted by Trump’s transition team as a possible pick for attorney general, a post which eventually went to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
McMaster had been expected to run for governor in 2018 to succeed the term-limited Haley. His ascension to the governorship is likely to give him a significant advantage over any GOP rivals.
Under South Carolina’s Constitution, McMaster’s post of lieutenant governor would normally be filled by the state Senate’s president pro tempore, Senator Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. However, when the lieutenant governorship became open after a resignation in 2014, Leatherman and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate refused to take the job, which has limited powers, and it eventually went to Democrat Yancy McGill.
McGill subsequently switched parties and has announced plans to run for governor in 2018 as a Republican.