Thursday, July 18, 2024

Haley vs. Scott: From South Carolina allies to 2024 rivals


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As he introduced the next senator from South Carolina, then-Gov. Nikki Haley said her decision to hire Tim Scott was “quite simple”.

“This man loves South Carolina,” Haley said of Scott, a Congressman at the time. “He’s very aware that what he does and what he votes for affects South Carolina and affects our country. And so it was that I knew he was the right person.

Scott was equally enthusiastic, praising Haley as someone who governed with “confidence” and “integrity”. He pledged to “team up with Nikki Haley to make sure all of America continues to hear great things about South Carolina.”

Haley and Scott are forever linked by that announcement at the South Carolina Statehouse on a winter’s day in 2012, cementing their status as rising stars in a Republican Party dismayed by the re-election of Barack Obama a month earlier. But nearly a dozen years later, they find themselves set to run against each other for the GOP presidential nomination. Haley has already launched a campaign, and Scott took steps toward launching his bid last week.

Both have historic potential, with Haley aiming to become the first woman and first person of Indian descent to win the presidency. Scott would be the first black Republican president. But much of the early attention to the race has focused on former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is about to announce his own bid.

As the GOP field begins to shape up, the prospect of a Haley-Scott faceoff is puzzling some of their mutual supporters in the crucial early voting state of South Carolina as they weigh which candidate to endorse.

One of those longtime donors and supporters is Mickey Johnson, a South Carolina businessman who has known Haley since high school and serves on the board of her Original Six Foundation, which helps children in rural South Carolina school districts. Provides after-school programming and literacy resources for , But like many Republicans across the state, Johnson has been a friend and ally of Scott, whom he said he would back over Haley in the presidential race.

“I really admire all the things Nikki does, her friendship is important to me, but at this point, I think her style is more what I would like to see our leaders – not just our president – operate in style.” Has the aspiration and attitude that he goes about it,” Johnson said.

Another is David Wilkins, who was South Carolina’s state house speaker when Haley was in the legislature, later chaired her governor’s transition team and is now serving with her on the board of Clemson University. Saying he has the “greatest respect” for Scott, whom he has supported in his Senate bids, Wilkins – who also served as ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush – said Haley’s Their bond together is strong.

Wilkins said of Scott, “He is an outstanding senator, and we are very proud of him here in South Carolina.” I have a very strong friendship with her. It is not choosing one person over the other. It’s just going to be someone I trust, someone I’m dear friends with, someone I’ve known for 20 years.

The intertwined relationships of those who have supported both Haley and Scott mirror the politicians themselves, whose shared political history even predates the Senate’s decisive appointment. The two served each other for one term in the state House of Representatives after Scott Haley joined the chamber following the 2008 election.

That next session, the two signed several resolutions and bills, including a constitutional amendment—eventually approved by state voters—guaranteeing workers the right to vote by secret ballot on union representation.

He worked closely with several co-sponsors on other less successful bills, including measures to audit state education funds, “rights to due process and equal protection” on fertilization, and a “truth in spending” measure for all. State and local government entities. Other measures that did not pass would have created several statewide positions such as agriculture commissioner, secretary of state, and superintendent of education, appointed, not elected, positions.

In 2010, Scott briefly ran for lieutenant governor, eventually abandoning that quest to seek the 1st District seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Brown. At the time, South Carolina’s governor and lieutenant governor were elected separately; Had Scott stayed in that race and won it, he and Haley would have served together as South Carolina’s top officeholders.

But two years later, when Jim DeMint suddenly announced his resignation from the Senate, Haley and Scott’s paths crossed again. Rob Godfrey, a longtime Haley adviser who served as her chief spokesman, said the gubernatorial process was deliberate, creating a short list that included Scott, Rep. Trey Gowdy and former First Lady Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of former Gov. Mark Sanford, who was Haley’s predecessor.

Also on the short list was former Attorney General Henry McMaster, one of Haley’s 2010 rivals who later became one of her biggest supporters and eventual successor. Catherine Templeton, a labor attorney who was appointed by Haley to head state labor and then public health agencies, was also being considered.

“She took each of those candidates and their backgrounds and their credentials and what they offered the state seriously throughout the process, and determined at the end of the day that there was an individual who was best suited to take the job and continue Carry on San Demint’s legacy, Godfrey said, but also blaze your own trail.

In choosing Scott, Haley stated that she wanted to appoint someone whom she felt could retain the seat in subsequent elections, and who was in the same ideological vein as DeMint.

Haley said at the time, “It doesn’t matter how much political experience you have, it’s about the fight.” “It’s about philosophical beliefs. It’s about knowing what you were sent to Washington to do.

Scott more than proved Haley right, winning a 2014 special election to fill the remaining two years of DeMint’s term, then winning an entire election of his own two years later. Last fall, Scott won re-election by more than 20 percentage points, a Senate race he had long said would be his last.

“Absolutely, she was thinking to the future,” said Chad Connelly, who was the state GOP chairman at the time.

That future is now, as both Haley and Scott prepare to compete against each other for the nation’s highest office. The day after Haley’s announcement, Scott embarked on a “listening tour”. Haley declined to comment about Scott when asked by The Associated Press.

“I have a lot of respect for Nikki Haley,” Scott said in a recent interview, adding that he hadn’t spoken with Haley before launching his search committee. “She is a strong, mighty force for good.”

He also dismissed any awkwardness in running against the Republican who appointed him to the Senate, and with whom he was in direct competition for the voters who elected them both statewide.

“You put on your uniform, you shake hands, and you go on the field. You fight for good. You fight to win the game,” Scott said. “You take off your uniform, you shake hands and you keep walking down the street.”

He said, ‘We were friends first. “We’ll be friends later.”


Meg Kinnard can be reached at


Associated Press writer Tom Beaumont in Marion, Iowa, contributed to this report.