Politics & Government

Former SC Gov. Haley donates to candidate in 5th District Congress race

Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley File/The State

She may have left South Carolina, but former Gov. Nikki Haley hasn't left the state's politics behind, making a modest donation to the congressional campaign of one of her chief legislative backers.

The U.N. ambassador on Tuesday sent a $100 check to Ralph Norman, campaign officials confirmed. The Republican resigned his S.C. House post earlier this year to pursue the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney's departure to join the Trump Administration as White House budget director.

As ambassador, Haley won't make an overt endorsement, so a donation is as close as she could get. Norman, R-York, was one of Haley’s biggest backers while in the Legislature, frequently speaking in opposition to lawmakers seeking to override the Lexington Republican’s budget vetoes. Norman's campaign celebrated the donation as a symbolic boost in a heated campaign battle.

"We view it as her endorsement and think it is a direct reflection of her appreciation for the fact that, over the years, Ralph was a staunch ally of hers when she was governor," Norman campaign adviser Walter Whetsell said.

Norman and House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope, R-York, the top two vote getters in last week's seven-way Republican primary, are competing in a GOP primary runoff election Tuesday. Rob Godfrey, a longtime Haley staffer who was her chief spokesman, said the Haley and Norman have similar views on serving in public office.

"Like Nikki, he's a fighter, he's a reformer, and he's not afraid to remind politicians that they work for the taxpayers, not the other way around," Godfrey told the AP.

Norman spokesman R.J. May said the donation shows Haley remembers which of the two legislators were more supportive of her agenda in the S.C. Legislature while she was governor.

“Ambassador Haley’s donation today is a direct acknowledgment that Ralph was one of the few allies she could rely on help streamline government, enact conservative reform and sustain her budget vetoes that sought to end wastefully spending and political backscratching,” May said.

On Wednesday, Norman also received the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a conservative political action group supported by the billionaire Koch brothers. The group also is airing TV ads supporting Norman.

The 5th District spans 11 counties, stretching north of Columbia to the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C., and east to Sumter County, home to Shaw Air Force Base. The winner of Tuesday's runoff advances to face Democrat Archie Parnell and a handful of third-party contenders in the June 20 general election.

The State’s Bristow Marchant contributed.