Gavin James Public Affairs in South Carolina: Influence of a Democratic Candidate, Nikki Haley, on the Reformation and Development of South Carolina
Editor’s Note: Gavin J. Smith is a public relations professional and political strategist. He is CEO of Gavin James Public Affairs, a public relations and marketing consulting firm in Lexington, South Carolina. He worked for the Department of Labor, as well as for the Department of Health and Human Services. The Executive Office of South CarolinaGovernorNikki Haley had an intern namedGavin as an interim executive assistant. The views expressed here are his own. You can have an opinion on CNN. This piece has been updated to reflect the latest news.
In the good ole’ boys club that is South Carolina politics, Haley wasn’t taken seriously as a gubernatorial candidate by many until former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, visited the Palmetto State in May 2010 and endorsed her.
I believe that Haley is a good candidate for the Republican Party and that she is the right person for the job.
When Haley took on and defeated the longest serving Republican in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, she was an unknown who had run a grassroots campaign that gave her an energy and fresh-faced outsider look.
Haley went from being on life-support to a candidate that was considered a contender in a field of all political stripes, thanks to the help from an ad that said Haley was a “strong, pro- family”, “prolife”, and “development” conservative reformer.
South Carolina flourished under Haley. Unemployment rates fell and South Carolina’s Department of Commerce announced tens of thousands of jobs had been created under her tenure and billions in capital investment flowed into the state. She spearheaded efforts to add more transparency to the legislative process as well as require South Carolina lawmakers to vote on the record more frequently.
Stokes says she appreciated Haley’s work to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol after a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston in 2015. She wasn’t happy to see Haley align herself with Trump just a few years later.
She was calm and composed when Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc on the residents of our state in the middle of the year.
The Complexion Problem and Trump’s Rejection of Haley: A Living Example of the Promised Land of Opportunity in the United States, and the Birth of a Small Town
Despite these accomplishments, and a very successful reelection campaign in 2014, Trump is said to have rejected Haley as a potential secretary of state, citing a “complexion problem,” and noting the “blotch marks on her cheeks” in a conversation with then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to the book “The Divider,” by New Yorker writer Susan Glasser and New York Times’ Peter Baker.
She became a leader in the Republican Party because of her direct approach to diplomacy and was appointed the US ambassador to the United Nations. Haley’s reputation as a US diplomat who got things done was built upon cutting the UN budget and leading the charge to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council.
Haley was one of the few Trump administration officials to stay in good graces of the former president, and the New York Times editorial page praised her as’that rarest of Trump appointees: one who can exit the administration with her dignity largely intact.’
As she launched her campaign, Haley pointed to her political resume as a living example of the idea that America is – at its core – a land of opportunity. She thinks that America is a “flawed, rotten, and full of hate” and she wants to push it back.
As the only Indian family, “our little town came to love us, but it wasn’t always easy,” she said. Nobody knew who we were, what we did, or why we were there.
Haley was born just a short time after her parents moved the family to Bamberg, a small town with a population of around 3,000. Her father was a teacher at the college and her mother was a teacher at the school which opened a successful clothing store.
Coker has known the family – the Randhawas – since before Nikki was born. She had Nikki in her seventh-grade social studies class and remembers her as quiet, but smart.
There were challenges. When Haley and her parents first moved to the area, they struggled to find someone to rent to them. Haley’s campaign video had her modest childhood home in it.
The mostly white crowd responded with applause as Haley said that the United States is not a racist country.
All of us are familiar with what this country was built on. And [racism] still exists,” he said. “It is.” “It is possible.” People in America have to deal with these things.
Lisa B. Stokes grew up in Bamberg and spent her career as a teacher. She started elementary school right around the time local schools were integrating and spent her first year of grade school in an all-Black class. Haley’s comments made him uneasy, but he had some sympathy for her.
At age 5, Haley was asked, mid-competition, to bow out of the Little Miss Bamberg beauty pageant – which had separate awards for Black children and white children – because they had no category for her, she told the New York Times Magazine in a 2011 interview. After that, the town integrated its pageants and many other social activities.
That kind of thing would force her to say, “Now it’s clear.” Sharon Carter is the chairwoman of the Bamberg County Republican Party.
Carter was born around the time that Haley was. She says Haley’s race was never a significant issue, and the family was well-regarded: “You know, by the time you’re in school as elementary-age kids, everybody just all gets along.”
The Republican state senator who was an ally of one of Haley’s opponents used a racist slur towards her, referring to her parents’ Sikh faith.
“I don’t write many letters to the editor but I had to respond to that, and I said, ‘Well you obviously don’t know them,'” she said of how she responded to that hate incident. She hasn’t slowed down after she won.
What has Haley’s Star Done? Rejoinder of Stokes and the Place a Baby on the Main Street, a Rural Small Town
As Haley’s star has risen, her hometown – like many other rural small towns, has declined, losing jobs and many of its young people. The textile factory left town after the interstate bypassed the community. Older residents can remember when the town’s main street was bustling and lined with traffic; today, most of the old brick storefronts are empty or covered in plywood.
Stokes, who lives a few blocks from the much larger home that Haley’s parents eventually moved into, says when she moved into the overwhelmingly white neighborhood around 1990, many of the neighbors actively avoided her.
“It was obvious that some were not very happy that we’d moved there,” he said. “And even to this day, you know, we’re the only African-American couple on the street.”
The recognition that Haley has brought to their hometown is something that Stokes is proud of. She wants Haley to remember the people she lived with back home.