S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s inclusion in Time’s 100 most influential people, released Thursday, burnished her reputation as a star in the national Republican firmament.
Haley’s leadership during last year’s turmoil catapulted her into the national spotlight and into Time’s ranks, alongside U.S. presidential candidates and world leaders.
That’s Haley, the national version.
The Lexington Republican is a leader who “put a face on South Carolina that we were all extremely proud of,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, wrote in Time.
“Whether dealing with the hate-filled shootings of the Charleston Nine at Mother Emanuel AME Church, the removal of the Confederate battle flag flying over State House grounds, the police shooting of Walter Scott or a 1,000-year flood ... Haley led with determination, grace and compassion.”
Haley, the S.C. version, inspires more ambivalence.
As governor, Haley has forged partnerships with Democrats and education advocates to develop and pass education reforms. But she also has confronted lawmakers – including members of her own party, which controls the Legislature – and other officials when they dare to stray from her agenda.
During a news conference Wednesday, for example, Haley called out Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, a Democrat, for not signing her anti-domestic violence pledge. Lott doesn’t “seem to think any rules apply to him,” Haley said.
Lott said he had planned to sign the pledge, which he did Thursday. A Haley aide tweeted Thursday that her office had received Lott’s pledge.
Haley also has butted heads with Republican leaders in the state House and Senate over roads spending and ethics reform.
Earlier this year, Haley drew a rebuke from House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, and other legislators for telling a group of real estate agents they would need a “good shower” after visiting the State House.
Those “middle-school comments” threatened to “poison the well,” Lucas said from the House floor.
After a Senate maneuver stalled a proposal to require lawmakers to disclose their sources of income, Haley ripped a Democratic state senator. “There is no good excuse,” she wrote on Facebook.
“Bless her heart,” responded state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, earlier this month. “It seems to me that Gov. Hypocrite Haley has a bad case of short-term memory loss. It was not too long ago that the Ethics Committee in the S.C. House of Representatives whitewashed hearings on Rep. Nikki Haley for her failure to disclose her own income.”
Haley accused another lawmaker of spreading a rumor that one of her Cabinet directors was an atheist. The senator was on a panel investigating the Department of Social Services, which reports directly to the governor.
That lawmaker, state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said Thursday Haley’s “national image is great, and she’s done a lot of good things in South Carolina,” making the state “come off looking really, really good.”
But from issuing letter grades to lawmakers during her first term to calling them out publicly for not supporting her agenda, Haley’s aggressive style sometimes “backfires on her,” Shealy said, adding “you can feel the tension.”
But, Shealy added, “People don’t seem to care what she does to us (legislators) because a lot of people out there don’t like us. But they like her.”