COLUMBIA, S.C. – President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and she has agreed to take the job, pending U.S. Senate confirmation. She says she’ll remain governor until then.
When she leaves, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will become governor. He ran for governor in 2010 but came in third in the Republican primary behind Haley.
Gov. Haley said in a written statement, “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.
USC political scientist Dr. Bob Oldendick says the position will move Gov. Haley’s career to the national level. “It puts her in a position to get foreign policy experience and really to be either a career-long diplomat, maybe move up to Secretary of State in the next administration, or to use it as a jumping-off point if she has ambitions to come back and maybe run for U.S. Senator at some point, or even if at some point she decides to go for the presidency,” he says.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison says, “I congratulate Governor Haley on her appointment as our next Ambassador to the UN. I must note with concern, however, that every single previous UN Ambassador came to the job with previous foreign policy experience, which Governor Haley lacks. I hope the Governor is a quick study because as one of the nation’s top diplomats, she will have the critical task of dealing in real time with virtually every international crisis that arises. For all of our sakes, I wish her great success!”
Former SC Speaker of the House David Wilkins served as U.S. Ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. He says there’s no need to worry about Gov. Haley’s lack of foreign policy experience.
“I got the same criticism when I went to Canada,” he says. “Back then it was reported, ‘Bush appoints Southern redneck who knows nothing about us.’ So you don’t need that (experience), cause the reason you don’t is you are surrounded by really good, really smart, competent State Department folks and folks that can get you a memo on any issue you want in a matter of seconds. And so you learn to lean on them for the information, but you still have to have the skills to go out and effectively advocate that position and to represent the United States in the way we want represented. She’ll be the voice and the face of the United States to all of the representatives of the world. And it’s not so much the experience she has, it’s the quality and traits, her personality, her people skills, her leadership abilities that she brings to the table that is just incredibly invaluable.”
While it’s clear that Henry McMaster will become governor, it’s not clear who will become lt. governor. According to the line of succession it would be Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. But it’s not clear that he would take the job, which has much less power than he has now as president pro tem and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The same thing happened in 2014. Then-Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell resigned to become president of the College of Charleston. Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, was president pro tem, but he didn’t want to be lt. governor, so he resigned from his position as pro tem. Democrat Yancey McGill agreed to become lt. governor, senators elected him president pro tem and he became lt. governor.
Gov. Haley’s move also changes the dynamic of the 2018 governor’s race. McMaster had already indicated he would likely run. Now that he will have been governor for two years, that may keep some of the Republicans who were thinking about running from getting in the race.
Dr. Oldendick says, “It certainly gives him a tremendous amount of leverage, because running as an incumbent you have two years of experience, assuming that things are going well in the state. That gives him name recognition; it gives him the advantages in terms of fundraising.”