Gov. Nikki Haley to deliver GOP response to the State of the Union

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, coming off a year where she gained national attention for her handling of the Charleston church mass shooting, will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address on Jan. 12.

Haley is calling her nationally televised speech from Columbia an “address” rather than a “response” as they have been called since they began in 1966. She is the first South Carolinian to deliver the State of the Union response.

The Lexington Republican, considered a possible vice presidential pick, is heading to the middle of her second term as governor in a state that holds the first presidential primary in the South.

The response has had presidential campaign ties in recent years. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave the address a year before being picked as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. And U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who delivered the 2013 response, is running for the White House this year.

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has been called a rising star in the party since she became South Carolina’s first woman and first minority governor in 2011. She gave a prime time speech during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Her stature has grown since the summer after her successful call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds after a state senator and eight other parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church on June 17. An avowed racist was charged in the killings that shocked the nation.

President Barack Obama came to Charleston to deliver a eulogy for Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a Jasper Democrat who was the church’s pastor. Pinckney’s widow appeared at the White House on Tuesday when the president announced plans to curb gun violence.

In his last State of the Union, Obama plans to deliver what the White House has called a non-traditional address that will focus on the nation’s challenges rather than push new initiatives.

Haley, the nation’s youngest governor, has criticized Washington politicians and the White House for burdensome regulations and legal overreach.

Most recently, she fought against Syrian refugees from settling in South Carolina because of security concerns and opposed plans to possibly move Guantanamo Bay detainees to a Naval brig outside Charleston.

In 2014, a day after sitting next to First Lady Michelle Obama at a dinner, Haley said the president’s plans to make cut in the National Guard was a “slap in the face” to guard members who have left their families and businesses to serve their country. Haley’s husband serves in the guard.

Haley blamed Obama for a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit over Boeing opening a jet plant in South Carolina, which has among the nation’s lowest participation in labor unions. The suit was dropped after Boeing agreed to raise employee wages and add production in more union-heavy Washington state.

She also has refused to expand Medicaid under the federal healthcare insurance law that was a signature piece of legislation under Obama.

Haley was chosen for the address by Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Nikki Haley is a proven leader and committed reformer who believes deeply in the promise of the country we all share,” McConnell said in a statement. “Not only has Gov. Haley fought to bring opportunity and prosperity to the people of her state, but she’s also demonstrated how bringing people together can bring real results. Gov. Haley knows the American Dream and wants to see every American share in it, and we’re pleased that she will be delivering this year’s Republican Address.”

Haley said she was honored at the request to deliver the address.

“This is a time of great challenges for our country, but also of great opportunities,” she said in a statement. “I intend to speak about both.”

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa gave the GOP response last year. The last governor to deliver the address was Mitch Daniels of Indiana in 2012.

Previous Republican State of the Union responses

2009 — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal*

2010 — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

2011 — U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin

2012 — Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels

2013 — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

2014 — U.S. Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington

2015 — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa

* — Jindal’s response came after Obama’s first speech to a joint session of Congress