Members of Beaufort County’s state legislative delegation responded Wednesday to the nomination of Gov. Nikki Haley for ambassador to the United Nations by President-elect Donald Trump.
“President-elect Trump obviously recognized what the people of South Carolina already know — Nikki Haley is bright, competent and well-respected in all political quarters,” Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said. “She's an excellent choice for UN ambassador,”
Davis said the president-elect’s choice managed to both elevate a competent female governor to a national position, while also elevating Republican Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump supporter.
Haley will remain governor until the U.S. Senate approves her nomination as expected. McMaster, who competed unsuccessfully against Haley in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, is then expected to elevate to the state’s top executive role.
Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, also praised Haley’s nomination.
“I think that this is a great opportunity,” Campsen said. “She has risen to the occasion and various circumstances in the state. She doesn't have much foreign policy experience, but she’s a quick study and I think she’ll do a great job.”
On the S.C. House side, Reps. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort; Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort; and Bill Bowers, D-Hampton, said they support Trump’s pick.
“She worked hard for South Carolina, and I think she’ll work with the same honor and distinction she did in this state for the country,” Herbkersman said.“I’m sure we’ll see Gov. Haley succeed,” Erickson said. “When she puts her mind to something there is not much that can stand in her way.”
“Haley’s intellect, her business acumen and her ability to communicate effectively will serve her well,” Bowers said.
Members of the Beaufort delegation reached Wednesday also said Haley’s nomination may significantly alter political-power dynamics in the Statehouse, though they don’t expect the agenda of McMaster, assuming he becomes governor, to be a significant departure from Haley’s.
“McMaster is a statesman and a gentleman,” Rep. Erickson said. “We will be left in good hands if he takes the helm and leads the state.”
Sen. Campsen, who co-chaired former Gov. Mark Sanford’s transition team, said McMaster will also have the benefit of Haley’s administration in place.
“There are already people in roles that have been chosen by someone that shares his political views,” Campsen said. “(He) can hit the ground running, so I hope that he wouldn’t engage in wholesale change.”
In the Legislature, however, Haley’s nomination will have “a domino effect, that’s for sure,” Campsen said.
McMaster’s expected promotion to governor is raising speculation about his replacement as lieutenant governor. Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, is next in succession for the job, but the 85-year-old could resign as president pro tempore to retain his leadership power as a lawmaker, which includes his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Davis said.
The role of lieutenant governor has much less influence in a state where power lies in the Legislature, Davis said.
“This leaves open the question of who might become president pro tempore,” Davis said. “It’s a very powerful position that has a big impact on policy.”