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Nikki Randhawa wins in S Carolina


Nikki Randhawa Haley, 32, a Republican from District 87, will become the first Indian American to hold elected office in South Carolina. Haley's opponent, an independent, was unable to get his name on the ballot.

Haley, whose parents are from Amritsar, was born and brought up in North Carolina. She says she feels a great sense of responsibility not just to her constituents but also to the Indian American community.

"It's exciting but it's been a long and very challenging year, a very rewarding year. But I feel a sense of responsibility to accomplish things in my district," Haley told IANS.

"My big concern is to try to find relief in property taxes, get some solutions for education - South Carolina is next to the last in education performance. Of course, I want us to work within our budget."

Though South Carolina State House is majority Republican as is the governor, Haley says it's what you do with the advantage that matters.

She feels a sense of responsibility to Indian Americans in the country as a whole. "Whenever you are part of a small group that does not have a lot of representation, the goal is to do a good job. So there's a weight on my shoulders that I represent my constituency well and then everybody benefits," Haley said.

Her parents, Ajit Singh Randhawa and Raj Randhawa, she said, have supported her the whole way.

"My parents are so excited and such a huge support to me. They get all the credit for it. They gave me the confidence, the knowledge and the feeling that you can achieve whatever you set out to do."

She says her husband Michael was a co-campaign chair and with her all the way.

"I could not have done this without my husband. You look at all the tings you did right and wrong. When I married him eight years ago... that was one of the right decisions in my life. When things got too serious on the campaign trail, he made light of it, and strategy-wise, he was good."

The Randhawas still have family in Amritsar.

The assembly seat is a two-year term after which the candidate seeks re-election. But Randhawa says she is going to think of that one and a half years from now.

She credited other Indian Americans running in this election saying it was a special challenge when one is a minority American.

"You really find yourself to be a dartboard for all things, and when you put yourself out there to do service for your district and country, it's something everyone should be appreciative about regardless of party."

Randhawa and her sister and mother run Exotica Inc., an upscale clothing store of which Nikki has been chief financial officer. She and Michael have two children, Rena, 5, and Nalin, 2.

"When you own a small business there is a sense of urgency and purpose in the way you run it. You don't wait for problems to arise. You try to fix them before they happen.

"The Statehouse should do the same. If we run our state like a business, with that same urgency, then we can get South Carolina back on the right track," Haley contends.