The rough-and-tumble race for governor enters its final weekend with no sign of a truce between GOP candidates Andre Bauer and Nikki Haley
Lt. Gov. Bauer on Thursday challenged state Rep. Haley -- the surprise front-runner among the four Republicans -- to take a lie-detector test to prove that she didn't have an affair, as his former campaign consultant claimed. He volunteered to take a polygraph himself to prove that he isn't involved with spreading rumors about Haley.
Haley, R-Lexington, has said repeatedly that she has been faithful to her husband of 13 years and has called any claims to the contrary "disgusting politics."
Will Folks, a blogger and former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, claimed May 24 that he and Haley had an affair in 2007. On Wednesday, Larry Marchant, a consultant helping Bauer's campaign with fundraising, said he also had a one-night fling with her in Utah in 2008.
Neither offered any proof, and Haley went on the attack against Bauer during a debate Wednesday night at WCSC-TV, noting Marchant had been paid by Bauer's campaign and saying political operatives were shopping the affair story around to reporters Tuesday.
"Nobody has been a better friend of transparency than Andre Bauer," Bauer said Thursday in a news release. "Ms. Haley, on the other hand, speaks of transparency, but apparently only for other people, not for herself. ... Now, we learn that she is refusing to release phone and text messages which could clear up some of the unfortunate recent allegations."
Bauer also said Haley is "not the person she is pretending to be."
Asked about Bauer's comments, Haley campaign manager Tim Pearson said, "We're not going to sink into the gutter of South Carolina politics with Andre Bauer. Nikki Haley's fight for transparency in state government has been well-chronicled for years, as have the battle scars she has to prove it."
Haley lost committee assignments in 2008 after angering House leadership by pushing for new roll-call voting requirements.
Political science professor Professor Robert W. Oldendick said he can't recall a similar instance of such personal revelations emerging so late in such a high-profile race.
"This level of dribs and drabs coming out is really unprecedented," Oldendick said.
He predicted it would hurt Haley and possibly Bauer.
Since Folks' claim, Haley has declined to release her phone and text-message records that might shed light on her relationship with him, though Folks since released some records.
Haley and Bauer also face S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in Tuesday's GOP primary.
The Democratic primary candidates are S.C. Sen. Robert Ford, state Education Superintendent Jim Rex and S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
Haley has said the claims surfaced only after polls showed she had a double-digit lead in the four-way gubernatorial race. "I went from 'Nikki Who?' to suddenly being in a double-digit lead, and I've had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me," she said Thursday in an interview on WVOC-AM in Columbia.
She also said in that interview she would resign as governor if she were elected and proof of an affair were offered.
Haley's popularity began to rise around the same time as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin visited Columbia to endorse her. Palin recorded a "robo-call" phone message in support of Haley that was delivered Thursday.
Bauer also said Haley has refused to disclose details of her non-lobbying outside compensation, including the purpose of her $110,000 contract with Lexington Medical Center.
"Ms. Haley falsely attacked me in the debate last night, just as she falsely attacked me earlier in her TV advertising," Bauer said, a reference to Haley's campaign ad. "As we approach this important election day, the time has come for real transparency. The time has come for truth."
Meanwhile, multiple media outlets reported Thursday night that state Sen. Jake Knotts, a Lexington Republican, called Haley a "raghead" on an Internet political talk show.
Haley is of Indian descent.
According to "Pub Politics" co-host Phil Bailey, Knotts said, "We've already got a raghead in the White House, we don't need another raghead in the governor's mansion."
Knotts, a Bauer supporter, later apologized for the slur, saying it was meant as a joke.