WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the first woman tapped for a top-level administration post during his transition to the White House.
"Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country," Trump said.
Trump was not Haley's pick for president. She campaigned with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio then endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz when Rubio dropped out. She openely criticized Trump, but now she'sll be a key member of his team.
Haley would become his first female -- and first nonwhite -- Cabinet-level official if confirmed by the Senate. She's the second Asian-American to serve as a U.S. governor.
South Carolina state Rep. Ralph Norman told Channel 9 Haley is the right person for the job, and also hinted at a possible presidential run in the future.
"Ambassador to the United Nations is a job that will give her experience," Norman said. "She's got higher aspirations for president and she's got a lot of options, so it doesn't surprise me."
But Winthrop University professor Dr. Karen Kedrowski called Haley's appointment as U.N. ambassador unconventional and not in her wheelhouse as a governor.
"I would have though of something more like commerce or the Small Business Administration, especially given her ardent championship of business interests as governor," Kedrowski said. "Trump isn't playing by the standard political playbook."
Kedrowski said Haley's ambassador role won't lead to many special favors for South Carolina, but foreign travel could help her recruit more business to the state.
Meanwhile, Channel 9 spoke to Democrat John King over the phone about the appointment and he said he's glad Haley is leaving Columbia.
"Our governor was more of a reality TV show person in my opinion, being that she wanted to be on every TV station and ever channel to build her political career," King said. "I'm glad she'll be following the footsteps of Donald Trump and move out of the way of progress here in South Carolina."
Haley's new job clears the way for Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to step into the role of South Carolina governor. McMaster was an early Trump endorser, backing him before the state's GOP primary in February. He will serve the remaining two years of Haley's term.
Experts believe that gives him a strong position in the upcoming race.
"It completely changes the playing field," Kedrowski said. "McMaster would then become an incumbent governor, that's going to make any other potential candidates look over their shoulders now."
Haley said she will stay on as governor until she's confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Gov. Haley released the following statement Wednesday:
Six years ago, South Carolinians bestowed upon me the greatest honor of my life. They took a chance on a little-known, 38-year old, minority, female governor – something our state had never done before. I will be forever grateful, and I expect I will never again receive a higher honor.
In the six years that followed, our state has reached incredible heights. We made South Carolina's economic development the envy of the nation and brought new jobs to every county. We cut our unemployment rate by more than half, employing more South Carolinians than ever before. We reformed how we fund education, moving more resources to communities in greatest need. We passed landmark ethics reforms that make state government more accountable to our people.
Our state has also persevered through some of the most difficult times. Nature damaged many of us with the thousand-year flood and Hurricane Matthew. Our hearts were broken for those we lost when tragedy struck Walter Scott's family, Mother Emanuel, and Townville Elementary School. Yet through it all, the greatness of our people overcame those tragedies, even coming together to heal the old wounds represented by the Confederate Flag on the Statehouse grounds.
This month's elections have brought exciting changes to America. Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally. Last week, President-elect Trump asked if I would meet with him to discuss those challenges, which I was happy to do. He has asked that I serve our country as our next Ambassador to the United Nations. Pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, I have agreed.
I always expected to finish the remaining two years of my second term as governor. Not doing so is difficult because I love serving South Carolina more than anything. I was moved to accept this new assignment for two reasons. The first is a sense of duty. When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation's standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed. The second is a satisfaction with all that we have achieved in our state in the last six years and the knowledge that we are on a very strong footing.
I will remain as governor until the U.S. Senate acts affirmatively on my nomination. We still have much to do in South Carolina, and my commitment to the people of our state will always remain unbreakable, both while I continue to hold this office, and thereafter.
In this holiday season, we all have much to be thankful for. Michael and I wish every South Carolinian a joyous Thanksgiving.
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