Haley takes big step toward GOP respectability

David Wilkins in January 2009./photo by Brad Warthen

The state Democratic Party is giving Nikki Haley a hard time for choosing David Wilkins to head her transition:

Columbia, SC – South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler released the following statement today in response to Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s announcement that GOP insider David Wilkins will head her transition team.  Wilkins is a former long-time SC legislator, House Speaker, and ambassador.

“We were hoping Nikki Haley had gotten the hypocrisy out of her system during her campaign, but apparently she didn’t.  David Wilkins’ appointment shows South Carolinians that the Haley Administration isn’t going to be the “movement” they were promised. The governor-elect has given the highest position on her team to one of the very same good ol’ boys she campaigned against.  She can’t move this state forward by continuing to reach backward,” said Fowler.

But I see it as a positive development — Nikki the Tea Party insurgent reaching out to the respectable center of her party. In other words, reaching out to the conservative center of the state GOP.

And that can only be a good thing. If I were one of her typical supporters, I might wonder. But since I’m not, I don’t.

For me, this is sort of like when I found myself reassured by Obama’s national security pragmatism after the 08 election.

11 thoughts on “Haley takes big step toward GOP respectability

  1. Barry

    I’ve always wondered that David Wilkins thought of his time in Canada.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen him really interviewed on that subject in any great depth – specifically regarding his thoughts on the differences in the government structure and what he thought of his time living in a country with a more liberal government system in place.

  2. Tina Watts

    It is probably reassuring to the GOP establishment that she is reaching out to them by appointing Wilkins. But, I suppose her main backers in the Tea Party are not too happy. She did campaign on some crazy message that she was going to take the state back from the “good ole boys” in her own party and burn those that crossed her. This move is a direct contradiction to her campaign rhetoric. I understand the basis for the Democratic response of hypocrisy, as that is what this appears to be. But,I understand we will be much better off in SC if she does not deliver on her campaign rhetoric.

  3. Elliott, South Carolina

    I pray that she will do what is best for South Carolina. I am encouraged by this appointment. I hope I am wrong about her.

  4. a tired old man

    It’s largely symbolic.

    One advantage to tapping Wilkins for the largely ceremonial role is that it does allow her to use his contacts to speed dial into SC corporate board rooms, much like Gov. James Edwards so successfully prevailed upon Roger Milliken to loan him Walt Perkins as his chief of staff in 1974, a generation ago.

    Meanwhile, her 2010 campaign manager Tim Pearson serving as transition team executive director has day-to-day control.

    Speaking of control, the Wilkins appointment is brilliant in both reaching out to and perhaps stabilizing relations with Oddie Rawl, head of the SC Chamber of Commerce.

    This is all the more so because Speaker Bobby Harrell was the protege of Wilkins, which gives Haley an additional lever regarding her precarious support from Bobby Harrell.

    So, except for some intramural advantages, the Wilkins appointment is largely symbolic and ceremonial, but most assuredly helpful to winning the hearts and the minds and the donations to campaign-debt close-out efforts as well as the loan of up and coming whiz kids from SC’s major business players.

    Success may have less to do with whether she can persuade them, and much more to do with whether they have the resources post-recession and post-bank exodus to provide loan executives to a Haley administration much like smaller, local firms do for the United Way.

    She needs new blood in Columbia to pull off anything she has promised — while she tries to chill much lingering bad blood.

  5. Tom Fillinger

    There is wisdom in heeding the aphorism – – “consider the source”. Please tell me what significance there might remotely be in listening to ANYTHING Carol Fowler has to say?

  6. Lynn

    My concern isn’t about Ambassador Wilkins, Columbia insider or statesman. It doesn’t matter, if she isnt’ willing to listen and learn from is counsel.
    My concern is her appointment of her outsider dominated campaign staff. What do they know about South Carolina? I’ve watched as both Democratic and Republican governors have tried to insert campaign staff in governing jobs. Round peg, square hole problem. Different job skills needed. Governing is not campaigning…Sanford never got that one, will Nikki?
    It also isn’t good to assume business leaders will be good state agency directors. Business people aren’t always successful government bureaucrats. Good business folks don’t always like to tell everyone what they are doing and why (that transparency thing, you know.)
    No where in her background has Nikki ever actually “run” an organization let alone one with thousands of employees and multi billion dollar budget. She might want to look for folks who have seriously MORE EXPERIENCE in leading large complex organizations responsible for making life and death decisions. It looks easier than it is. SC has little or margin of error this time out.

  7. Doug Ross


    Right. Sheheen preaches working together while the Democratic leaders preach ongoing sniping.

    You lost again, Democrats. Maybe you need to come up with a new plan that isn’t based on negativity.

  8. Jim Duffy

    +The appointment of Ambassador Wilkins does not signify any political position, but rather an effort to produce an effective transfer from the current to the new transition and understand the mechanics of such action by using the background and experience of a man fully aware of what is required. Making an issue of such an appointment as a philosophical positioning of the newly elected governor is simply a waste of time.


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