Tea party expects S.C. Gov. Haley to toe conservative line

Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s inauguration is a reason for revelry among South Carolina’s newest conservative activists, but leaders said they do not plan any tea parties to celebrate.

While Tea Party leaders say they will attend Haley’s swearing-in Wednesday, the tax protest groups — among Haley’s earliest supporters — do not plan any specific celebrations.

Haley, a little-known, three-term Republican state representative from Lexington, rode to victory in June’s GOP primary in part because the Tea Party movement was advocating new political leadership. One prominent campaign ad supporting Haley featured the candidate at an April Tea Party rally at the State House declaring: “It is a beautiful day for a tea party.”

Now, those groups say they will hold Haley to her campaign promises, adding the new governor’s office is offering to keep open a line of communication.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Jonathan Hill of his plans to attend the inauguration. Hill is a member of the Upcountry Coalition of Conservative Organizations, a network of about 20 Upstate groups. “She seems to have a ‘git ’er done’ mentality, and I think that’s what we need.”

Hal Nichols with the S.C. Tea Party Patriots, a statewide umbrella group of about 30 local Tea Party chapters, said Haley’s office is looking to speak with Tea Party groups after the inauguration.

“I’m fully confident of that,” Nichols said of Haley’s promised open-door policy to Tea Party activists.

"The thing the governor-elect has always loved about the Tea Party is that it’s made up of people from all walks of life who have found the power of their voice,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said in a statement. “She is committed to keeping them involved in their government and always keeping her door open to them."

Tea Party Patriots activist Nichols said his first priority is for Haley to follow through on her campaign pledge to use every means possible to challenge the recently enacted national health care law.

Lexington GOP activist Talbert Black met with Haley shortly after the Nov. 2 election, presenting her with a short list of Tea Party priorities: No new taxes, install accountability and keep your campaign promises.

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