Drama draws reaction

Haley

Controversy continued to swirl around the GOP gubernatorial primary Friday, as the candidates crisscrossed the state to court the undecided, and their supporters did what they could to calm things down.

Jenny Sanford, the former first lady who herself faced a political scandal head-on last summer, said the accusations made against state Rep. Nikki Haley have convinced her more than ever that Haley should be the state's next governor.

"I have watched with revulsion the spectacle that is now surrounding the governor's race; our state is better than this," Sanford said. "I can't help but think that these attacks are being leveled at Nikki Haley because of the courageous stands she has taken over the years in defense of taxpayers and government reform -- stands that offend many of the most powerful interests in state government."

Likewise, former Gov. David Beasley said he originally planned to stay out of the race but changed his mind because of S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster's leadership and maturity during the recent controversy.

"I started reassessing my position as the tone of the race changed, and I made the decision early this morning to have my say," Beasley said Friday. "I've watched the race unfold and I've watched Henry McMaster, despite all the distractions, stay focused on the positive things about South Carolina and its people."

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer answered questions about one of his supporters -- state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia, who called Haley, whose parents emigrated from India, and President Barack Obama "ragheads" on an Internet radio show.

"We've got a raghead in Washington, we don't need a raghead in the Statehouse," Knotts said Thursday. He later apologized and said his comments were meant as a joke.

During a campaign stop in Charleston Friday evening, Bauer called Knotts' comment "deplorable. ... It's getting away from the issues. It has no place in politics whatsoever."

McMaster agreed, saying his opponents "should rein in their attention-starved surrogates. ... Any short-term personal gain they may earn comes at the expense of South Carolina's bright future."

Gov. Mark Sanford, whose trip to Argentina last summer led to revelations about his mistress there, said there's no room for bigotry in the Republican Party, but he stopped short of saying Knotts should resign.

"I live in a glass house," Sanford said. "Given my own well-chronicled failures, I'm not going to suggest any course of action for anybody else."

The fourth Republican hopeful, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster, spent the day campaigning in Newberry, Clinton and Columbia.

Republicans and Democrats go to the polls Tuesday to vote for governor and several other offices.

Facing off on the Democratic side are state Sens. Robert Ford of Charleston and Vincent Sheheen of Camden and state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex of Winnsboro. Their campaign has been one of peace and harmony by comparison.

Earlier this week, Haley accused Bauer of being behind the second of two accusations that Haley had been unfaithful to her husband of 13 years. Former Bauer consultant and Columbia lobbyist Larry Marchant on Wednesday said he had a one-night stand with Haley in 2008. Bauer said he fired Marchant when Marchant told Bauer of the alleged encounter.

Will Folks, political blogger and former spokesman for Gov. Sanford, said last week that he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with Haley.

Haley vehemently denies both claims. No proof has been provided to back up either Marchant's or Folks' accusations, although Folks released phone logs to document many late-night conversations he had with Haley in 2007, the year he said the two had the relationship.

Bauer denied again Friday that he had anything to do with the claims made against Haley.

"I didn't like it being said that I was trying to implicate her because I wasn't," Bauer said.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at ywenger@postandcourier.com or 803-926-7855.