Rep. Nikki Haley has some of the most appealing and most disturbing characteristics of any candidate running for governor this year.
She is charming, engaging and smart. She is refreshingly passionate and energetic and not about to put up with the games at the State House. She can explain problems in a way to get voters fired up ("It's just wrong; it's wrong all day long," she says of school administrators' opposition to a bill that would cost them money by jerking the junk food out of schools). That's no small thing in a state as apathetic as ours.
She's all about comprehensive reform — of the tax code, of the executive branch of government, of the school funding system — and her support for those vital changes predates her campaign, and seems far more heartfelt than her GOP opponents.
And even though she comes out of the Sanford organization, she might be the least destructive when it comes to private school choice: She says she would not engage that divisive battle until she has created an equitable school funding system, because it just won't work until we overhaul the funding. Whatever her motives, the fact is that this issue is so poisonous that it makes it impossible for the Legislature to act on long-overdue reforms not only to the way we fund schools but also to the way we operate them.
Her central theme is transparency: Make legislators cast more roll-call votes; make them report more about the business they do with government. (How could I not be impressed when it was one of my fixations — the obscene legislative pensions — that launched her transparency crusade?)
Her campaign might be best summed up by her oft-repeated line: "They want to make things look hard. It's not that hard."
Sometimes that's true.
Often, though, things are more complicated than she suggests.
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