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South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be U.N. ambassador

Haley will be replaced in Columbia by Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

south-carolina mugWASHINGTON (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.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

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.

Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

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.

Marco Rubio snags endorsement of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Haley jumps on Rubio’s bandwagon days before the pivotal South Carolina primary

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

south-carolina mugCHAPIN, South Carolina (CFP) — South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has endorsed U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, three days before the state’s pivotal primary.

The coveted endorsement is a coup for Rubio in his quest to become the establishment alternative to front-runner Donald Trump — and a blow to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who had also courted Haley.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Speaking to a crowd of Rubio supporters in Chapin, in Haley’s home county, on February 17, the governor said that while there were “good people” in the GOP race, her job “was to find the person I thought could do it the best.”

“I wanted somebody with fight. I wanted somebody with passion. I wanted somebody that had conviction to do the right thing. But I wanted somebody humble enough that remembers that you work for all the people,” she said.

Haley, 44, is in her second term as the Palmetto State’s chief executive. She has been mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential pick–speculation that is now likely to intensify should Rubio win the nomination.

Haley’s received national attention last year after a racist opened fire inside a church in Charleston, leaving nine people dead. In the wake of those murders, she persuaded the Republican-controlled state legislature to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the top of the statehouse in Columbia.

Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants and, if selected as the VP pick, would be the first Indian-American on a national ticket.

The governor has had an increasingly contentious relationship with Trump since she took a thinly veiled shot at the GOP front-runner in January while giving the response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Just hours after the Rubio endorsement, the crowd at a Trump rally in Sumter booed Haley.

 

Analysis: South’s changing demography erodes attachment to the Lost Cause

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lgThe newfound drive to retire the Confederate battle flag from the public arena may have been fueled by the visceral emotional reaction to the racist massacre at a church in Charleston, the Confederacy’s very birthplace. But the seeming ease with which Confederate artifacts are being swept away across the South can also be explained by another factor — shifts in the region’s demography that are eroding the regional insularity underpinning romantic attachment to the Lost Cause.

CFP Facebook MugshotIn the last 30 years, there has been a sea change in the Southern electorate. The percentage of white people born in the South — the people most inclined to want to retain vestiges of their Confederate past — is shrinking, while the percentages of African-Americans and whites born outside the region are expanding.

So even though the South may be as politically conservative as it has ever been, the constituency for public maintenance of Confederate heritage is becoming less potent, which is giving Southern politicos more freedom to maneuver across these contentious waters.

For example, in 1960 — around the time that many Southern state governments began embracing Confederate symbols in a show of defiance against the Civil Rights movement — more than 90 percent of the population of eight of the 11 former Confederate states was Southern born, according to U.S. Census figures.

The only exceptions were Florida, Virginia and Texas, but even in the most Yankee-fied of those states — Florida — 60 percent of the population was still born in the South.

1960 was also at the tail end of the Great Migration, in which 6 million African-Americans left the South for cities in the North and West, which dramatically reduced the black populations across the region In 1900, 90 percent of African-Americans lived in the South; by 1970, that figure had fallen to just 53 percent.

Fast forward to 2010. Only two former Confederate states — Louisiana and Mississippi — still had 90 percent of their populations born inside the region. Alabama was at 86 percent. But across the rest of the South, more than 20 percent of the state populations weren’t born in the South. In Florida, only 45 percent of the population was Southern born.

And those figures don’t take into account two salient factors: First, African-Americans born in the South, who would not support display of Confederate symbols, are included. And second, people born in the South whose parents weren’t born in the South are also included — another group not likely to salute the Confederate battle flag.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a conservative Republican who has been leading the charge to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse in Columbia, is a case in point. She was born in South Carolina — but to Sikh parents from India with no ancestral attachment to the Confederacy.

And even in Mississippi, the only Southern state that still incorporates the Confederate battle emblem into its state flag, 9 percent of the population in 2010 was born outside the South and 37 percent was African-American — a potentially formidable coalition against public Confederate nostalgia.

In South Carolina, the non-Southern population is 25 percent, and the black population is 28 percent. Although those two groups overlap, those numbers indicate that the section of the electorate that has no attachment to Confederate heritage may be approaching a majority in the place where the Confederacy began.

At the same time as the non-Southern born population in the South was rising, so too was the African-American population. As segregation faded away and the South’s economy boomed, blacks began moving back to the region, in essence reversing the Great Migration.

For example, between 2000 and 2010, six of the seven U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest influx of African-Americans were in the South — Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Charlotte and Orlando. The seventh, Washington, D.C., is partially in Virginia.

Topping that list was Atlanta, which is why it is not that surprising that after the Charleston massacre, Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, ordered a redesign of a Sons of Confederate Veterans’ specialty license plate festooned with the battle emblem.

That was a far cry from the fight over removing that same emblem from the Georgia state flag, a controversy that raged for more than 10 years and led to the introduction of three state flags in two years before the current design was adopted in 2003.

Whether public exhibition of Confederate symbols is a display of heritage or a display of hate is, of course, a debate that will probably continue as long as people watch “Gone With The Wind” and drink mint juleps. But if demography is any guide, public use of those symbols is headed into the quaint mists of Southern memory.

Ten things to watch for in Tuesday’s election

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South

By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:

Wsouthern states smill There Be A Peach State Runoff? — Georgia has a unique election law providing for a general election runoff if neither candidate gets an outright majority — a distinct possibility in a close race with a third-party candidate. Polls show that both the U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn and the governor’s race between incumbent GOP Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic State Senator Jason Carter could be razor close. If that happens, a runoff in the governor’s race would be December 9, but the Senate race would not be settled until January 6.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Is Battle For Senate Control Headed To The Bayou? — Regardless what happens in Georgia, the in Louisiana between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, is certain to head to a runoff. If Republicans need the Louisiana seat to gain control of the Senate, the Pelican State could become the focus of the American political world until the December 6 runoff.

How Much Of A Drag Is Obama? — The president’s approval ratings are anemic across the South, and none of the major Democratic candidates have brought him into the region to campaign. Linking each and every Democrat to Obama (and Obamacare) has been part and parcel of just about every Republican campaign. Tuesday will determine whether Obama’s unpopularity was a millstone that drowned Democratic prospects.

Will Florida Voters Resurrect Crist?Charlie Crist’s political career looked to be all but over after a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate four years ago. But now he’s back — this time as a Democrat — and, if the polls are to be believed, within striking distance of the governor’s mansion once again. If Crist pulls it off, it will be a remarkable feat of political redemption.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

How Big Will Abbott Win? — There’s no question that Republican Greg Abbott will win the governor’s race in Texas over Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who ran a remarkably inept campaign. The only question is how badly Davis goes down. Democrats talked a good game earlier this year about turning Texas blue. Tuesday’s results could show how distant that dream really is.

Fallin And Haley On National Stage? — Both Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are cruising to easy re-election wins, which could catapult them into the national conversation for 2016. Historically, being a governor has been the best way to become president, and perhaps one reason we haven’t had a female president is that no female governor has ever sought the White House. Tuesday’s results could start those kinds of conversations in Columbia and Oklahoma City.

Are Nunn And Graham Their Father’s Political Daughters? — Both Nunn, running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, and Gwen Graham, who is seeking a U.S. House seat in Florida, are scions of prominent Democratic political families making their political debuts. Both have run strong campaigns in areas that lean Republican. So Tuesday could be a night of political deja vu.

How Many Southern Senate Seats Can Democrats Keep? — Right now, the Democrats have only eight out of 28 seats. They seem certain to lose one of those, in West Virginia, and three others — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy. So the party of Jackson that once strode strong across the South could be reduced to having less than 15 percent of region’s Senate seats.

Has Georgia Turned Purple? — If Democrats pull off wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Georgia, they will no doubt crow about changing political winds in the Peach State. Tuesday’s results will show if Georgia, like Virginia before it, is becoming less reliably Republican, which would no doubt encourage Democrats to try to put the state into play in 2016.

Can Rahall Survive in West Virginia? — When Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall was first elected to Congress, bellbottoms were still the rage. But after 38 years in Washington, he is fighting for his political life in a state where opposition to the Obama administration’s environmental policies is dragging down the Democratic brand. If Rahall goes, the state’s entire House delegation will be in GOP hands, a sea change in a state that a generation ago leaned Democratic.

Analysis: 2014 is a year of missed opportunity for Southern Democrats

Democrats across the region making little headway in overcoming Republican hegemony

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

This year, 10 GOP-held U.S. Senate seats are up for election across the South. Democrats mounted serious challenges to just two of them.

This year, seven Republican-held Southern governorships are on the ballot. Democrats mounted serious challenges in just two of those races as well.CFP Facebook Mugshot

Heading into this election, Republicans hold 108 of the 151 U.S. House seats in the South. Democrats put just six of them in play and could very well come away without gaining a single seat, while at least four of their own seats are in serious jeopardy.

With the exception of Georgia, where Democrats are making surprisingly strong runs for both U.S. Senator and governor, 2014 has been a year of miscues and might-have-beens for the party of Jackson.

For example, at the beginning of the year, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had shaky job approval numbers and looked like she might be vulnerable. Now, she’s poised to roll to re-election on Tuesday, which could put her in the national conversation in 2016.

Down in Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s rocky tenure in Tallahassee gave Democrats a golden opportunity, which they may have squandered by giving their nomination to the deeply flawed Charlie Crist.

A year ago in Texas, State Senator Wendy Davis was the darling of liberals everywhere, poised to lead Lone Star Democrats to the promised land after 20 years in the wilderness. Her inept campaign for governor has left those hopes in tatters, although it could be argued that a candidate best known for a full-throttled defense of abortion wasn’t that viable in a place like Texas to begin with.

In Florida earlier this year, Democrats failed to wrest the 13th District U.S. House seat — which Barack Obama carried twice — from Republicans during a special election, which left them with no chance to win it in the fall.

Florida 13 is one of three Republican-held House seats in the South that Obama carried in 2012. The GOP is poised to carry all three on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there are five Democrat-held Southern House seats that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Republicans are making strong runs in all five.

So moribund is the Democratic Party in Alabama that it didn’t even field a candidate to run against Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. And in both Oklahoma and South Carolina, where both Senate seats are up this year, Democrats couldn’t muster a serious challenge in any of those four races.

Senate seats are likely to flip from Democratic to Republican hands in both West Virginia and Arkansas, with Democrat-held seats in both North Carolina and Louisiana in jeopardy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be beating back a Democratic challenge in Kentucky.

That leaves Georgia as the only bright spot for Democrats. Michelle Nunn has combined innate political talent with a strong campaign to make herself competitive in a state where Democrats haven’t won a Senate race since 1996.

However, if she can’t polish off David Perdue on Tuesday, the race will head to a January runoff — and runoffs can be nasty, brutish and unpredictable.

So here is the state of play, heading into Tuesday:

  • Republicans hold 20 of the 28 Southern Senate seats. That number will almost certainly rise.
  • Republicans hold 10 of 14 governorships. Given that the GOP will likely make a pick-up in Arkansas, the best Democrats can hope for is to go from four to five, if they take out incumbents in both Georgia and Florida — a tall order..
  • The GOP holds 108 of the 151 House seats. Odds are the Republican margin will increase slightly.

All in all, Republican hegemony is alive and well across the Southland.

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