South Carolina Candidates Poised for Historic Victories on Day of High-Stakes Runoffs

Published June 22, 2010
| FOXNews.com

A state known for its racially charged politics may be on the cusp of nominating an Indian-American woman for governor and a black man for U.S. representative.

As voters go to the polls in South Carolina Tuesday, they will have the final say in whether Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley should represent the party in the November gubernatorial race and whether state Rep. Tim Scott should carry the GOP mantle in the Republican-dominated Congressional District 1 race. Both candidates advanced to runoffs with their top challengers after the state primary elections two weeks ago.

Elsewhere, several high-stake runoffs are being held in North Carolina, Mississippi and Utah.
The gubernatorial race in South Carolina has been closely watched. The GOP primary was marked by what Haley has described as "dirty politics," as first a blogger and then a lobbyist claimed they had affairs with the candidate, which she denied. A state senator called Haley a "raghead" and the final stretch of the race saw questions about her Christian faith -- Haley was raised Sikh by Indian-American parents.

Despite the drama, Haley emerged relatively unscathed in the primary, winning 49 percent of the vote against three established Republican competitors. U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, who came in a distant second with 22 percent, advanced to the runoff.

Haley told Fox News that the willingness of voters to accept her candidacy shows the state is moving beyond wanting to hear "dirt about the other opponents."

"They now want to talk about issues that affect wallets and affect their businesses every day," she said. "They want to hear about what that candidate is going to do for them."

The race also signaled a potential shift toward more diversity among South Carolina's elected officials. If she wins, Haley would move a big step closer to being the state's first female governor and one of a handful of Indian-Americans in top elected positions.

Scott, who is going up against Paul Thurmond -- son of the late U.S. senator and former segregationist Strom Thurmond -- has a good shot at being the first black GOP congressman for his state in more than a century. Also, a black Republican has not held a seat in Congress since Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts left in 2003.
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