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Haley criticizes Sanford, port situation

State Rep. Nikki Haley began her career as a protege of Gov. Mark Sanford, but as she seeks to replace him, she's talking about a few things she would do differently.

The Lexington Republican said Thursday that she would not submit her own budget like Sanford but instead would work with state lawmakers on their draft.

"You will see me do things a different way when we go into January," she told more than 100 people of the Commercial Investment Division of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

"I served in the legislature. I know what they think. We have got to start working with them from a predictable standpoint."

Haley called Sanford reactionary by nature, adding. "They would pass a bill, he would react. They would pass a budget, he would react. In order to lead with the legislature, you have to be predictable. You have to let them know what you're going to do before you do it."

Haley also didn't mention Sanford by name but was critical of what South Carolina has done for its ports compared with Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's involvement at the Port of Savannah, a key competitor to Charleston's port.

Haley's comments come as state Democratic officials have begun a drumbeat linking her to Sanford, calling her his "handpicked successor" and suggesting little would change if she succeeds him. (Haley was endorsed by Sanford's ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, though the governor hasn't talked much about the campaign.)

Some of her biggest issues -- reducing taxes on businesses, making the state more business-friendly, increasing transparency and governmental restructuring -- still mirror Sanford's goals.

Haley faces Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden on Nov. 2.

At Thursday's meeting, Haley also was asked about the ongoing controversy involving the city of North Charleston, the state Commerce Department and two railroad companies over how best to run trains to a new port terminal at the former Navy base. Haley called the situation "a hotbed" and said more communication was needed.

"If there is some challenges with the fact that some people don't want it, I think we have to try to find a way to make sure that it happens because dual rail is a good thing for our state," she said. "Dual rail will create businesses. ... Instead of saying, 'No, this can't be done,' we have to start working around, saying, 'How do we make it happen?' ... I'm willing to totally be at the table on that one."