The South Carolina Republican gubernatorial primary might just be the sleaziest race of the whole cycle — with one personal attack after another being flung right at state Rep. Nikki Haley.
Haley is favored to win today’s primary runoff against Congressman Gresham Barrett, but it’s sure been a rough ride along the way. The first notable wave of attacks came when two separate men accused Haley of having extramarital affairs with them: First it was Republican blogger Will Folks, and then it was lobbyist Larry Marchant. It is interesting to note that Marchant had been a paid consultant for one of Haley’s rivals, Lt. Gov. AndrÃ© Bauer, until a day before he publicly spoke about the alleged affair. Haley publicly vowed that if she were elected governor and the affair accusations were proven true, she would resign.
Marchant took a lie detector test on the allegations, which came back “inconclusive.” Bauer also took a lie detector test, in order to prove that he was not behind the allegations. Bauer ultimately came in fourth place in the first round of the primary.
Interestingly, Folks has made it clear that he supports Haley, even as he says she’s lying when she denies the alleged affair. With supporters like these…In the run-up to the first round primary, Haley countered the allegations with an ad that featured her standing alongside her husband, Michael Haley. “I’ve seen the dark side of our state’s politics,” Nikki Haley proclaimed in the ad.
Then, shortly before the primary, GOP state Sen. Jake Knotts kicked it up a notch, by calling Haley, who is of Indian Sikh backgroundÂ but has converted to Christianity, a “f—ing raghead” who was supposedly hiding her religion. “We got a raghead in Washington; we don’t need one in South Carolina,” said Knotts, who was supporting AndrÃ© Bauer. “She’s a raghead that’s ashamed of her religion trying to hide it behind being Methodist for political reasons.”
All in all, the allegations didn’t hurt Haley — in a four-way primary, she came in first place with a whopping 49% of the vote, just shy of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. She is heavily favored to win against Barrett, who came in a distant second with 22%.
Still, that hasn’t stopped the whispering campaigns against Haley. An email circulated by Pickens County GOP chairman Phillip Bowers, a Barrett supporter, kept up the accusation that Haley is not really a Christian — albeit in more delicate phrasing than Knotts used. “Haley can’t seem to make up her mind about her faith,” Bowers wrote in the e-mail, which was provided to CNN by a Haley supporter. “There are lots of contradictions to her story. It’s not my place to question her faith, but I do question her honesty. If anyone finds the truth, please let me know.”
Bowers added: “Again, I’m not questioning her faith, but I absolutely can’t stand a liar.”