In a June 22, 2015 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is applauded during a news conference in the South Carolina State House, in Columbia, S.C.
Tim Dominick—AP
August 6, 2015 1:45 PM EDT

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered an impassioned retelling of the June Charleston shooting and her efforts to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from her state’s capital Thursday.

Addressing a crowd of several hundred Republican Party bigwigs hours before the inaugural GOP debate on stage with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus, Haley discussed the “grace” shown by the victims and their families following the killing of nine black church-goers. “We saw compassion in our state like we’ve never seen,” she reported, declaring that her staying “is healing” but “we’ve got some more healing to do.”

Haley has been a GOP rising star for years, but her handling of the shooting and its aftermath propelled her onto nearly every candidates’ potential vice presidential short-list. “South Carolina didn’t have riots, we had vigils,” she added proudly. “We didn’t have yelling, we had hugs and prayers.”

Addressing the removal of the flag, Haley called it, “a pain in the gut that we never felt before,” saying she determined the flag had to come down after watching the victims’ families appear in court to say they forgave accused gunman Dylann Roof. She called her husband and summoned state lawmakers to the capital for a meeting, saying that when she made the announcement she didn’t know who would appear with her other than her husband and Priebus, who hopped on a plane for the occasion.

Haley explained that after taking the flag down she has looked for ways to continue working with Democrats across the aisle, but said there are still limits. “We brought a flag down, I didn’t change my philosophical core,” she explained, maintaining she does not believe voter identification laws are racist, as some critics allege.

Addressing Thursday night’s debate, Haley said she’s looking for candidates who are genuine.

“I want details. I want substance. I want a problem-solver, ” said.

Haley predicted that Donald Trump would tone down his appearance on stage. “I actually think that Mr Trump is going to realize his environment, I think he’s going to stay calm up there,” she said, adding of all the candidates. “Let’s remind everybody not to get personal.”

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