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Randhawa elected to South Carolina assembly

Last updated on: June 23, 2004 12:01 IST

Nikki Randhawa Haley won the runoff election for South Carolina State Assembly from the 87th District defeating Larry Koon, who represented the district for the last 30 years.

The 32-year-old businesswoman got 54.69 per cent votes (2,928 votes), while Koon got 45.31 per cent (2426 votes).

In another contest in Texas, Tom Abraham, an Indian American businessman, won in the runoff election for the Sugar Land City Council At large Position One.

Both are Republicans.

With Haley's victory five Indian Americans are currently in state legislatures: Kumar Barve in Maryland, Upendra Chivukula in New Jersey and Swati Dandkar in Iowa assemblies and Satveer Chaudhury in Minnesota senate.

Haley ran for the election after Koon said he would not contest again. But later he changed his mind and returned to the fray. He said that the state's budget problem was the reason for his change of heart.

In the election held on June 8 Koon got 2,354 votes (42.27 per cent) while Haley got 2,247 votes (40.35 per cent). A third candidate, David Perry, an insurance broker, got 968 votes, (17.38 per cent).

Since nobody got more than 50 per cent, a runoff was necessitated. There is no Democratic candidate and Haley automatically becomes the assemblywoman.

After the election in June 8, Haley said she was sure of victory at the runoff in June 22.

As a Sikh, there were questions about her faith. "But everybody knows us. She is born and brought up here only. Her husband is an American. Their two children go to the church as well as the temple. We explained these to the sceptics," Ajit Randhawa, her father said.

Haley promises to be a spokesperson for the Indian Americans, women, and the business community.

The 87th district is a very southern district in the southern state of South Carolina. People are mostly conservative and 98 per cent of the voters are Republican.

She said she is Republican because it supports business and stands for many of the ideals she cherishes. She is pro-life also. "Does it matter for the Indian community whether the candidate is Republican or Democrat? What we need is people in political office. Party affiliation is irrelevant for us at this time," she said earlier.

The district has 22,000 voters and the number of Indians is very few.

The district is part of the congressional district of Rep Joe Wilson, co-chair of the India Caucus.

A graduate of Clemson University, Haley worked as an accounting supervisor for some time. In 1996 she returned as controller in the family business.

She also served as a member of the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce before the family business relocated to Lexington County.

Currently, she serves as a member of the board of directors and the Doris Burkett Scholarship Committee of the Lexington County Chamber and is co-chairing the Lexington Gala for 2004. She is the treasurer and president-elect of the Greater Columbia Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners among other positions.

Her husband Michael Haley is also a businessman. They have two children, Rena, 5, and Nalin 2.

She has a sister and a bother also, both her elders.

In sugar land, TX, Abraham got 2117 votes (50.02 per cent) while his opponent Mike Casey got 2115 (49.98 per cent.)

Earlier Abraham got more than 40 per cent while case got only about 30 per cent. So the fight was a tough one.

Of the total 41,444 voters only 4,232 (10.23 per cent) voted in the runoff.

George Joseph