Politics & Government

Mark Sanford: Nikki Haley

No one has been more closely linked to Gov.-elect Nikki Haley than the man she will follow into office as South Carolina’s governor.

Haley was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004 and immediately became one of the governor’s most outspoken legislative allies.

Sanford also persuaded Haley to run for governor.

However, their relationship was strained when Sanford revealed an extramarital affair in 2009. Haley, who won despite unproven allegations of affairs, scrubbed all references to the governor from her campaign Web site, and Sanford’s expected high-profile support of her candidacy largely evaporated as he battled ethics and impeachment hearings.

During the GOP primary, a Sanford-affiliated group paid for a TV ad touting Haley. But Sanford also sent out an e-mail to supporters critical of Haley’s decision not to write an executive budget — a concept Sanford pioneered.

Sanford also has been critical of legislators for — he says — using their political positions for personal gain, a charge levied against Haley for taking a $42,500 consulting fee from a company that does business with the state and a $110,000-a-year job with a hospital. In that job, Haley raised money from companies with business before the Legislature.

For the record, Sanford will not comment on Haley’s finances.

But Haley campaigned on much of Sanford’s agenda, and Jenny Sanford — the governor’s former wife, who endorsed Haley early — said on election night that Haley’s win was a validation of Sanford’s two terms.

QUESTION: How do you view Nikki Haley’s succeeding you? Her opponents wanted to characterize it as a third term of Sanford.

ANSWER: It’s funny. I was talking to (Anderson state Sen.) Kevin Bryant a couple of weeks ago. They were running a bunch of ads that said, ‘Don’t do this because you’ll basically recreate a third term of Sanford.’ But people up his way were like, ‘Heck yeah, I’m going to vote for her.’ It was meant as a negative ad, but people were taking it like a positive.

Q: But you have spoken with her? Several times?

A: A couple of times.

Q: How do you think she’s different from you?

A: She was a member of the legislative body. I never was. She has a level of appreciation for some of the personalities and egos that come with the institution that I didn’t really have.

I would say she’s got a very pleasing disposition, but that’s not to say I don’t. I love people. I love being around people. But, in the business world, if somebody gives you a non-answer you just wouldn’t deal with them again. In the political world, I’ve got to deal with (state Senate Finance Committee chairman and Florence state Sen.) Hugh Leatherman. What I can’t do is pretend that I’m Hugh Leatherman’s pal. We’re political opponents. I don’t view him as a bad guy. In terms of political philosophy, we saw things differently.

Maybe she’ll have a better temperament with dealing with some of the back-and-forth and trade-off that goes with the world of politics.

My only advice would be: Stay true to the promises you made to voters.

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