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A few things you may not know about South Carolina Republican star Nikki Haley

Wednesday, June 9, 2010; A08

The past few days on the campaign trail, South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley liked to joke that she went from "Nikki Who?" to a near-permanent spot on the front pages of the Palmetto State's newspapers.

If the 38-year-old state representative becomes the Republican nominee in a June 22 runoff, she would also instantly become one of the national party's most promising rising stars. She's smart and serious about policy, a charismatic campaigner who dresses stylishly and can deliver barbed attacks with a smile.

Here are a few things you may not know about Haley:

She's an accountant who started keeping the books at 13 for the clothing boutique owned by her parents, Sikhs who left India and landed in tiny Bamberg, S.C. (population 3,733).

Her husband, Bill, is an Army civilian employee who is in the National Guard. Haley made him start going by his middle name, Michael. "He didn't look like a Bill," she told a campaign adviser.

She adapted her name, too. Nimrata Randhawa Haley "wouldn't fit on a yard sign," she told the Charlotte Observer, so she became Nikki Haley when she first ran for office in 2004.

Although Haley was raised a Sikh, she married a Methodist and is raising her two children, Rena and Nalin, as Methodists. She became the first descendant of the Sikh religion elected to any state legislature in the United States.

-- Philip Rucker

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