Governor-elect Nikki Haley announced Monday that former U.S. Ambassador and State House Speaker David Wilkins will be chief of her transition team. To some, this announcement appears to be a contradiction with Haley promises to take on the entrenched system in the legislature. To others, Haley has made a brilliant move and has the ultimate legislative insider on her team and members of the legislature poised to do whatever David tells them to do.

Does anyone recall Wilkins saying a word in favor of Haley during her struggling campaign? He could have been a big help. Now the State quotes Wilkins saying, “I believe in Nikki Haley. I believe she is the right person at the right time for our state.”

Wilkins will reportedly be helping Haley find candidates for cabinet positions and people to fill other important state government positions. Haley will make at least 17 top state government appointments including the head of the Commerce Department, Transportation Department, Health and Human Services Department, the state prison system and others.

On the positive side, David Wilkins knows how South Carolina state government is organized and how it works. He served in the legislature under 5 different governors. To borrow a phrase, “he knows where the skeletons are buried in Columbia.” He will be invaluable as an advisor for the new Governor who must immediately get to work on helping business create jobs and dealing with the severe deficit facing the state in the next year and onward. Wilkins can be invaluable in dealing with the legislature that has feared the election of Haley. Some Republican lawmakers actually worked against her candidacy behind the scenes. Wilkins has credibility with all branches of the government. He was instrumental in the appointment of most of the judges currently serving.

Some were surprised when David Wilkins did not become a Republican candidate for Governor of South Carolina, since he returned from Canada after the election of Barack Obama. He may now have an even better situation if he remains with the Haley administration after the transition is complete. He can be the power behind the Governor without taking the heat for mistakes and the attacks from political opponents.

The first couple of years will be difficult even if everything goes well with the new Governor. There is the unemployment situation and the financial shortfall as well as problems with illegal aliens and constant challenges from the federal government, not to mention unfunded mandates.

One indication that the choice of Wilkins is a good one  for the transition team comes from Democrat Chairman Carol Fowler who chides Haley for picking one of the good ol’ boys she campaigned against. Wilkins could be the key to avoiding anticipated clashes between Haley and the lawmakers that her critics in both parties predicted throughout the primary and general election campaigns.

It is interesting that Sheheen is not blaming his loss on Nikki Haley or her supporters. He informed the State that he should have run more negative ads accusing Haley of paying taxes late. But in the final analysis, he blames his loss on President Obama and the backlash by voters against Obama that spilled over into state races and allegedly harmed Democrat candidates.


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Mike Scruggs