Nikki Haley

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Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley official Transition portrait.jpg
29th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Assumed office
January 27, 2017
President Donald Trump
Deputy Michele J. Sison
Preceded by Samantha Power
116th Governor of South Carolina
In office
January 12, 2011 – January 24, 2017
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
Born Nimrata Randhawa
(1972-01-20) January 20, 1972 (age 45)
Bamberg, South Carolina, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Michael Haley (1996–present)
Children 2
Education Clemson University (BS)

Nimrata "Nikki" Haley (née Randhawa; born January 20, 1972)[1][2][3] is the 29th and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations.[4] She served as the 116th Governor of South Carolina from January 2011 to January 2017. Before her tenure as governor, Haley was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.[3]

Haley was the first female Governor of South Carolina and the second Indian American, after fellow Republican Bobby Jindal, to serve as a governor in the United States.

Haley delivered the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address on January 12, 2016.[5] In 2016, the then Governor of South Carolina was named among "The 100 Most Influential People" by Time magazine.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa[1] in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian American Sikh family.[8] She was "always called Nikki, which means 'little one,' by her family."[1] Her parents, father Ajit Singh Randhawa and mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, are immigrants from Amritsar District, Punjab, India.[9] Her father had been a professor at Punjab Agricultural University, and her mother had received her law degree from the University of Delhi.[10] Haley's parents immigrated to Canada, after her father received a scholarship offer from the University of British Columbia. When her father received his PhD degree in 1969, he moved his family to South Carolina, where he accepted a position as a professor at Voorhees College.[11] Her mother, Raj Randhawa earned a master's degree in education and taught for seven years in the Bamberg, South Carolina, public schools before founding a clothing shop, Exotica International, in 1976.[10]

When Haley was five years old, her parents entered her in the "Miss Bamberg" contest.[9] The contest traditionally crowned a black queen and a white queen.[9] Since the judges decided Haley did not fit either category, they disqualified her.[9]

Haley has two brothers, Mitti, a retired member of the United States Army Chemical Corps who served in Desert Storm, and Charan, a web designer.[12] She has one sister, Simran, a radio host and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, who was born in Singapore.[12]

At age 12, Haley began helping with the bookkeeping in her mother's ladies' clothing shop, Exotica International.[13] The Economist in 2016 compares her to another shopkeeper's daughter, Margaret Thatcher, saying that Haley's childhood job gave her "an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion".[13]

In 1989, Haley graduated from Orangeburg Preparatory Schools.[14] She graduated from Clemson University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.[15]


Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining the business of her mother Raj Randhawa, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm. She began working there as a bookkeeper at age 13, later becoming a company comptroller[13] and, in 1994, chief financial officer.[16] The family business had an annual revenue of $1.8 million by 2004,[17] and closed in 2008 upon Randhawa's retirement.[10] In her autobiography, Haley credited her time keeping the books in her mother’s dress shop with giving her "an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion."[13]

Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998.[18] 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.[18] She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital.[19] She also serves on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff's Foundation, and West Metro Republican Women.[20] She is 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. She has spoken at Rotary clubs in South Carolina.[21]

South Carolina House of Representatives[edit]


In 2004, Haley ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives for a district in Lexington County. She challenged incumbent state Representative Larry Koon in the Republican primary—the real contest in this heavily Republican district. Her platform included property tax relief and education reform.[22] In the primary election, she forced a runoff as Koon won just 42% of the vote. She placed second with 40% of the vote.[23] In the runoff, she defeated him 55%–45%.[24] She then ran unopposed in the general election.[25] She became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina.[26]

She was unopposed for re-election to a second term in 2006.[27] In 2008, she won re-election to a third term, defeating Democrat Edgar Gomez 83%–17%.[28][29]


Haley was elected chair of the freshman caucus in 2005 and majority whip in the South Carolina General Assembly.[30] She was the only freshman legislator named to a whip spot at the time.[31]

Fiscal policy[edit]

One of Haley's stated goals was to lower taxes. When Mark Sanford was governor of South Carolina, Haley voted against cigarette surtax. The revenue from the tax would have been appropriated to smoking prevention programs and cancer research related to smoking.[32] She voted for a bill that raised sales taxes by one penny 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.[33]


Haley implemented a plan in which teachers' salaries would be based not only on seniority and qualifications but also on job performance, as determined by evaluations and reports from principals, students, and parents.[34]

Haley is in favor of school choice and charter schools.[35]

Legislative pensions[edit]

Haley supports barring legislators from collecting legislative pensions while they're in office. She believes the pensions should be based only on the $10,400 legislative salary instead of the salary plus lawmakers' $12,000 annual expense allowance.[36]

Immigration policy[edit]

Haley has stated that, as the daughter of immigrants, she believes the immigration laws should be enforced.[37] 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 cracking down on illegal immigration in June 2011.[38] The law is the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the United States Justice Department on numerous grounds, including claims the immigration law violates the Supremacy Clause. Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley, said, "If the feds were doing their job, we wouldn't have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level. But, until they do, we're going to keep fighting in South Carolina to be able to enforce our laws."[39]


Haley describes herself as pro-life and has supported legislation to restrict abortion rights.[9][40][41][42]

She has stated "I'm not pro-life because the Republican Party tells me, I’m pro-life because all of us have had experiences of what it means to have one of these special little ones in our life."[42]

Haley has consistently supported bills that protect the rights of a fetus and restrict abortion, except when the mother's life is at risk. In 2006, as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Haley voted for the Penalties for Harming an Unborn Child/Fetus law, which asserted that an act of violence against a fetus is akin to a criminal act against the mother. She also voted for two separate bills that required a woman to first look at an ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before being permitted to have an abortion.[43] In 2016, she re-signed a new state law that bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy.[42]

Haley has voted in favor of some bills relating to abortion that were tabled or rejected, including the Inclusion of Unborn Child/Fetus in Definition for Civil Suits Amendment, Prohibiting Employment Termination Due to Abortion Waiting Period amendment, and Exempting Cases of Rape from Abortion Waiting Period amendment. The latter would have allowed specific cases of women to not have to wait the mandatory 24 hours before having an abortion.[44]

Committee assignments[edit]

  • Labor, Commerce and Industry[45]
  • Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs[45]

Caucus memberships[edit]

  • Freshman Caucus, 2005–2006 (Chair)
  • Lexington County Meth Taskforce
  • Sportsman's Caucus
  • Women's Caucus, 2007 (Vice Chair)[46]


2010 gubernatorial election[edit]

Haley joins U.S. military service members for the launch of Operation Palmetto Employment.

On May 14, 2009, Haley announced that she would run for the Republican nomination for Governor of South Carolina in the 2010 elections.[47] Haley had been persuaded to run by incumbent Governor Mark Sanford.[48] On November 11, 2009, she was endorsed by former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as Jenny Sanford, the incumbent first lady of South Carolina.[49][50][51] She was polling in last place in the GOP race before a surprise endorsement from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, three weeks before the primary vote.[52] The Republican gubernatorial primary took place on June 8, 2010, and Haley captured 49% of the vote, forcing a runoff election on June 22.[53] Haley won handily in the runoff vote.[54]

Haley was elected governor on November 2, 2010, defeating the Democratic candidate, Vincent Sheheen 51% to 47%.[55] She is considered the third non-white person to have been elected as governor of a Southern state, after Virginia's Douglas Wilder and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal.[56]

Haley's victory marked the first gubernatorial victory for a Sikh in US history.[57]


Haley's official Governor's photo.

Fine by State Ethics Commission[edit]

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.[58]

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl[edit]

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.[59][60]

Economic policies[edit]

In inviting business to move to South Carolina she has said:

What I'm saying is, if you come to South Carolina, the cost of doing business is going to be low here. We are going to make sure that you have a loyal, willing workforce and we are going to be one of the lowest union-participation states in the country.[61][62]

Confederate flag[edit]

Before June 2015, Haley was in support of flying the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds.[63] Following the Charleston church shooting, Haley led bi-partisan calls for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol and its grounds.[64] Haley stated:

"These grounds (the State Capital) are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain." Haley also said, "There is a place for that flag," but she said "It's not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina."[65]

In July 2015, Haley signed a Bill to authorize removing the Confederate flag from the flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol.[66][67]

LGBT issues[edit]

In April 2016, Haley indicated she would not support legislation introduced by the South Carolina State Senate which would require transgender individuals to use restrooms based on biological sex instead of gender identity. Haley stated:

“These are not instances... Y’all haven’t reported on anything. I haven’t heard anything that’s come to my office. So when I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re, again, not hearing any citizens that feel like they are being violated in terms of freedoms.”[68]

Haley described such restroom legislation as unnecessary.[69][68][70]


Haley has been described by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham as a "strong supporter of the State of Israel".[71] As Governor of South Carolina, she signed into law a bill to stop efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.[71] This legislation was the first of its kind on a statewide level.[71] 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".[72]

Request for tax return disclosure by Donald Trump[edit]

As governor, in 2016, Haley received extensive press coverage for saying the phrase "bless your heart" in response to an attack by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.[73][74][75][76] Trump had attacked her on Twitter for her call for him to release his tax records.[77]

Voter ID laws[edit]

Haley supports Voter ID laws, laws requiring photo identification at the polls.[78]

2014 re-election[edit]

Haley speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

On August 12, 2013, Haley announced she would seek a second term as Governor.[79] She faced a challenge in the Republican primary from Tom Ervin. However, Ervin withdrew and later contested the 2014 gubernatorial elections as an independent.[80][81]

As in 2010, Vincent Sheheen of the Democratic Party was once again her challenger. Republican-turned-Independent Tom Ervin was also running in early stages of the contest, as well as Libertarian Steve French, and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves.[81] The first public debate was held in Charleston on October 14, between French, Ervin, Haley, Reeves, and Sheheen.[82] The second public debate in Greenville on October 21, again included all five candidates.[83] A week after the second debate, Ervin withdrew from the race and endorsed Sheheen.[84]

Haley was re-elected on November 4, 2014, with a 55.9 percent to 41.3 percent win, almost tripling her previous margin of victory over Sheheen in 2010 gubernatorial elections.[85] Her second term as governor of South Carolina was set to expire on January 9, 2019, but she resigned on January 24, 2017 to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Potential vice-presidential candidacy[edit]

In 2012, former Governor Mitt Romney considered her for his vice-presidential running mate.[9] In April 2012, Haley said that she would turn down any offer: “I’d say, ‘Thank you, but no, I made a promise to the people of this state. And I think that promise matters. And I intend to keep it.”[86]

Haley was mentioned in January 2016 as a potential candidate for the vice presidency in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[13][87]

The Economist described Haley as a politician with high approval ratings who possesses a combination of "fiscal ferocity and a capacity for conciliation," and stated as a female candidate and ethnic minority she would have appeal.[13] On May 4, 2016, after Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee, Haley denied interest in the vice presidential nomination.[88][89]

United States Ambassador to the United Nations[edit]

Haley sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 25, 2017

On November 23, 2016 President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Haley for Ambassador to the United Nations.[90] On January 20, 2017, President Donald Trump sent Haley's nomination to the United States Senate.[91]

On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed by the Senate 96-4 to become Donald Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations.[92] The four that voted against Haley were: Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.)[93] Shortly thereafter, she resigned as South Carolina governor and Lt. Governor Henry McMaster ascended into the governorship of South Carolina.

Haley was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 25, 2017. She met with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on January 27 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.[94]

On February 2, 2017, Haley declared to the U.N. Security Council that sanctions against Russia for its Crimean conflict would not be lifted until Russia returned control over the region to Ukraine.[95]

On March 15, 2017, Haley said she would not support a Muslim ban should President Trump choose to enact one. Haley said she did not believe "we should ever ban anyone based on their religion" and that a Muslim ban would be "un-American".[96]

On March 30, 2017, Haley stated that the U.S. would no longer focus on forcing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power. This was a policy shift from former president Barack Obama’s initial stance on Assad.[97]

On April 5, 2017, speaking to the U.N. Security Council a day after the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, Haley said Russia, Assad, and Iran "have no interest in peace" and attacks similar to this would continue occurring should nothing be done in response.[98] A day later, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles toward the Shayrat Air Base in Syria. Haley called the strike a "very measured step" and warned that the U.S. was prepared "to do more" despite wishing it would not be required.[99] On April 12, after Russia blocked a draft resolution meant to condemn the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, Haley criticized Russia, saying "We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people."[100]

On April 20, 2017, while holding her first session as President of the UN Security Council, Haley charged Iran and Hezbollah with having "conducted terrorist acts" for decades within the Middle East.[101]

On April 24, 2017, Haley said the U.S. military could be deployed in response to any further North Korea missile tests or usage of nuclear missiles and that she believed Kim Jong-un understood this due to pressure by both the U.S. and China.[102]

Personal life[edit]

Haley was raised as a Sikh. In September 1996, she married Michael Haley with both Sikh and Methodist ceremonies.[103] Haley has since converted to Christianity and attends a United Methodist Church. During a Christianity Today interview, Haley responded "What I hope is that my parents do what's right for them," when asked whether or not she hopes her parents convert to Christianity.[104] She attends Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church, as well as Sikh Gurdwara services.[105][106]

Her husband is an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard and was sent on a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in January 2013.[107][108] The couple has two children, daughter Rena and son Nalin.[12][109] As of 2017, Rena is a freshman at Clemson.

In May 2015, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the University of South Carolina.[110]

Awards and honors[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Republican Primary Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Larry Koon (inc.) 2,354 42.27
Republican Nikki Haley 2,247 40.35
Republican David Perry 968 17.38
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 2,929 54.70
Republican Larry Koon (inc.) 2,426 45.30
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 14,421 98.94
Write-ins Write-ins 155 1.06
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 11,387 99.48
Write-ins Write-ins 60 0.52
South Carolina House of Representatives 87th District Election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 17,043 83.12
Democratic Edgar Gomez 3,446 16.81
Write-ins Write-ins 16 0.08
South Carolina Governor Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 206,326 48.86
Republican Gresham Barrett 91,824 21.75
Republican Henry McMaster 71,494 16.93
Republican Andre Bauer 52,607 12.46
South Carolina Governor Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 233,733 65.05
Republican Gresham Barrett 125,601 34.95
South Carolina Governor Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 690,525 51.37
Democratic Vincent Sheheen 630,534 46.91
Green/United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 20,114 1.50
Write-ins Write-ins 3,025 0.23
South Carolina Governor Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley (inc.) 696,645 55.90
Democratic Vincent Sheheen 516,166 41.42
Libertarian Steve French 15,438 1.24
Independent Tom Ervin 11,496 0.92
United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 5,622 0.45
Write-ins Write-ins 934 0.07


Haley published an autobiography, Can’t is Not an Option: My American Story by Nikki Haley, Penguin Books in 2012.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dewan, Shaila; Brown, Robbie (June 13, 2010). "All Her Life, Nikki Haley Was the Different One". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Rucker, Philip (2010-06-08). "Nikki Haley: 10 things you didn't know about the S.C. Republican". Washington Post Voices. 
  3. ^ a b Page, Susan (2012-04-02). "Don't say 'no' to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley". USA Today. 
  4. ^ "Nikki Haley confirmed as new U.S. envoy to the United Nations". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-01-25. 
  5. ^ "Republican response to State of the Union: Transcript -". CNN. 13 January 2016. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Campbell, Shanay (21 April 2016). "Governor Nikki Haley among Time Magazine's '100 Most Influential'". WSAV. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "The 100 Most Influential People". Time. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  8. ^ Theroux, Paul (2015). Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads. London, UK: Hamish Hamilton. p. 42. ISBN 9780241146729. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Fausset, Richard; Sengupta, Somini (November 23, 2016). "Nikki Haley's Path: From Daughter of Immigrants to Trump's Pick for U.N.". The New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c "Exotica founders closing store, plan retirement". The Times and Democrat. 20 April 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2016.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "McClatchy" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  11. ^ Lavina Melwani (2010-12-30). "The Nikki Haley Story". Lassi with Lavina. Retrieved 2015-01-11. 
  12. ^ a b c Laura Amato (February 18, 2016). "Nikki Haley's Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "Haley's Comet". The Economist. 16 January 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "HaleyEconomist" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "HaleyEconomist" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  14. ^ Brown, Martha Rose (May 24, 2014). "Haley encourages OPS grads to follow their convictions". The Times & Democrat. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  15. ^ BRISTOW MARCHANT (January 13, 2017). "Nikki Haley makes Saturday a Clemson holiday". The State. 
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  17. ^ Dutt, Ela (18 June 2004). "Nikki Haley in runoff for South Carolina Assembly Republican Primaries". News India - Times. 
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  20. ^ Biography: Nikki Haley
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  29. ^ "State House of Representatives District 87". June 1, 2009. 
  30. ^ Nikki Haley
  31. ^ Sikh American woman is Republican whip The Tribune, Chandigarh – January 18, 2006
  32. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Nikki Haley's Voting Records". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  33. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Sales and Property Taxes". Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  34. ^ Taylor Kearns (2011). "Teacher pay bill expected to pass, but educators are worried". 
  35. ^ "Nikki Haley Unveils Education Plan". August 20, 2010. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  36. ^ Thomas Frank (September 30, 2011). "S.C. Gov. Haley wants to end legislators' inflated pensions". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-07-19. 
  37. ^ "Gov. Nikki Haley signs illegal immigration police checks law – The Post and Courier". Post and Courier. June 26, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2011. 
  38. ^ Richard Fausset (January 18, 2012). "For Romney, immigration issue offers an opportunity". Los Angeles Times. 
  39. ^ Terry Frieden (October 31, 2011). "U.S. sues South Carolina over immigration law". CNN. 
  40. ^ Chretian, Claire (November 23, 2016). "Trump appoints pro-life Gov. Nikki Haley as UN ambassador". Campaign Life Coalition. Retrieved November 26, 2016. 
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  58. ^ SEANNA ADCOX (July 15, 2013). "Haley agrees to pay fine, forward 8 donations". The Post and Courier. 
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  72. ^ Opening Statement of Governor Nikki Haley
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External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
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Samantha Power
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
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United Kingdom Matthew Rycroft
President of the United Nations Security Council
April 2017
South Carolina House of Representatives
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Larry Koon
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 87th district

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Todd Atwater
Party political offices
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Mark Sanford
Republican nominee for Governor of South Carolina
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