(CNN)In the wake of a high-profile rebuke to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley continued to forge her own path within the Republican Party on Wednesday night during her State of the State address.
Haley focuses on healing, Walter Scott in State of the State address
Haley tapped into Palmetto State emotions by remembering the victims of the Mother Emanuel church shooting in Charleston, acknowledging that the family of slain state Sen. Clementa Pickney was attending the address in the South Carolina statehouse.
"He should be sitting with us tonight. Sadly, he is not. This is an infinitely dimmer room because of it," she said.
Haley segued into the death of Walter Scott in North Charleston in April, which she described as "a tragedy."
The case drew major backlash and national attention after a witness' video was released showing the African-American Scott shot in the back by a police officer after being pulled over for a broken taillight.
"We were betrayed by one of our own," Haley said Wednesday night, referring to the police officer.
But Haley lauded the non-violent reaction from her constituents.
"In the face of overwhelming video evidence that something had gone terribly wrong, South Carolina did not erupt in riots or violence, " she said.
She pointed to Scott's death as a catalyst to pass what she called the first police body camera bill in America.
Haley's blunt talk about the culpability of police officers and the need for reforms, paired with her criticism of Trump during her GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, mark her as a woman willing to buck convention within her political party.
The governor was also critical of South Carolina's high rate of domestic abuse, an issue that Democrats and the Republicans in the statehouse have united in fighting in the last year.
"There is no excuse for South Carolina to rank as the state in America with the highest percentage of women killed by men," she said, calling this particular standing something, "that we should never be proud of."
Haley also advocated for empowerment of the survivors and called for a restructuring of courtroom procedures for domestic violence crimes.
Haley also played to tradition by laying out her vision for state lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session, highlighting the flat-lining unemployment rate in the state and calling for more education funding for the K-12 system using a percentage of the state's bond capacity.
She concluded on another emotional note, describing South Carolina as "a state that inspired a nation."
"There is greatness in South Carolina, a greatness embodied by our people, a greatness unequaled in our country. We have all seen it. We all know it," she said.