In South Carolina, GOP Gubernatorial Race Gets Ugly

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Front-runners will always absorb their share of potshots, but rarely do they come in forms like this. Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, a Tea Party favorite backed by Sarah Palin, is no stranger to internecine warfare; in recent weeks, she’s twice denied allegations of extramarital affairs. But the most recent attack on Haley is far more appalling. According to South Carolina’s The State newspaper, State Senator Jake Knotts used an appearance on an Internet talk show to deride Haley as a “raghead:”

“We already got one raghead in the White House,” Knotts said. “We don’t need another in the Governor’s Mansion.”

According to those present and watching the show, “Pub Politics,” Knotts also talked at length about Haley’s parents’ religion and her family. Haley was raised as a Sikh, but converted to Methodist and has said she attends both services. “Pub Politics” host Wesley Donehue said the video will be posted today.

Haley’s religion was raised as an issue during her first S.C. House run in 2004, when anonymous fliers claimed — inaccurately — that she was a Hindu. Haley won the race, unseating the House’s longest-serving lawmaker.

Haley is in a four-way contest for governor. Knotts is a longtime ally of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is also running for governor. Wednesday, Bauer campaign consultant Larry Marchant said he had a one-time sexual encounter with Haley in 2008. Bauer asked Marchant to resign, but Haley accused Bauer of “fishing” the story to the press. The allegation was the second in as many weeks against Haley, who has maintained she has been faithful to her husband of 13 years.

Whether or not the remark was “intended in jest,” as Knotts said in a statement, it was repellent.