Indian American Governor Nikki Haley Wins in So. Carolina

Indian American Governor Nikki Haley Wins in So. Carolina

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Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley swept to re-election in mid-term elections Nov. 4, as her party took over the House and Senate.

“It’s a great day in South Carolina,” Haley said to a cheering crowd, as her family stood beside her. She thanked her husband, Michael Haley, calling him the “coolest partner ever” for serving in Afghanistan and then returning home to help her with her re-election bid.

“I am very proud of who I am because of my family,” said the nation’s first Indian American female governor. “My mom, dad, sister and brother have supported me through everything I’ve done,” she said humbly.

During the waning days of her campaign, the popular governor faced some vitriolic backlash from Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen, who called her a “whore” during a private event.
“That is the worst kind of politics, and we’re gonna escort whore out the door,” Sheheen said. The candidate quickly corrected himself, but began cackling after members of the crowd began laughing, reported the Washington Free Beacon.

In her victory speech, Haley alluded to the comment, saying her family had fully supported her even as her challenger made the damning remarks.

Amarjit Cheema, a long-time supporter of Haley and a friend to the family, told India-West he was not surprised by Haley’s overwhelming victory.

“She’s been doing a pretty good job. She’s very hard-working, which makes everyone willing to support her.”

Cheema said Haley had reduced unemployment rates by offering incentives to get more small businesses rooted in the “Palmetto state.” Cheema is himself a small businessman who owns four gas stations and a hotel.

Haley has visited gurdwaras – her father Raj Randhawa is the president of a local temple – and has offered support to Sikh Americans who have faced school bullying and racial harassment issues.
“In the past, I felt a little risky living in this state. Things seem to be getting better,” he said.

In California, four-term incumbent Governor Jerry Brown was poised to win his seat – as predicted – but Republican challenger Neel Kashkari turned out a surprising number of votes.

Earlier polls had predicted Brown was leading Kashkari by 72 percent. But with almost a third of the votes tallied, the young opponent – a former Bush Administration Treasury Department official – had narrowed the gap, trailing Brown by just 14 percent.

“Neel has always had an uphill battle, but knowing that, he still forged ahead,” Vanila Singh, Kashkari’s chair for the Indian American team, told India-West. “He made a huge effort to be out around the state; people who met him and heard him have turned out to support him.”

“The results are better than anyone could have predicted,” said Singh jubilantly. She predicted that Kashkari would run again for office, or perhaps work in the non-profit sector to expand jobs for the middle class.

“Neel is not the kind of guy who will just go away,” she said.

Two other California races were too close to call as India-West went to press Nov. 4 evening. In CD 7, incumbent Rep. Ami Bera – the lone Indian American in Congress – led his challenger, Republican Doug Ose, by a razor-thin edge with 56 percent of votes counted.

Pratibha Shalini, who has supported Bera’s three bids for Congress, told India-West the Sacramento region had seen tremendous improvement over the past two years. She noted the new Sacramento Kings downtown arena, and a “downtown partnership plan” to bring more small businesses to the area.
“We are in for a dynamic turn-around,” she said.

In one of this year’s most-watched races, seven term incumbent Mike Honda was leading challenger Ro Khanna with a margin of 8 percent, with 17 percent of votes counted. In an interview with India-West shortly before polls closed, Honda said he was confident of a win.

Even as Republicans gained control of the House and the Senate, Honda said he was confident that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would be passed this term. He noted that the Senate already supports such a bill, and said House Majority Speaker John Boehner should allow the House to vote on an immigration bill.

In Pennsylvania, physician Manan Trivedi lost his third bid for the CD6 congressional seat. “We gave it our all,” Trivedi told India-West after conceding. “It was a tough national climate.” The Indian American said he would get some sleep, catch up with his wife and kids before thinking about his next move.