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Indian-American wins US gov primary runoff

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Posted by on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 9:46
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COLUMBIA, South Carolina: An IndianAmerican woman vying to overcome allegations of infidelity and an ethnic slur targeting her Sikh heritage won a Republican primary runoff vote in the southern state of South Carolina.

Nikki Haley, a Christian convert who relied on support from conservative tea party activists and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, could also become South Carolina’s first woman governor.

Haley immediately became the front-runner in the race against the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen in the heavily Republican state. The disgraced Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, whose affair with an Argentine woman stirred up a scandal, is leaving the post because of term limits.

She wasn’t the only candidate trying to upend tradition in the conservative state of South Carolina, which has a long history of racial tension. Tim Scott, bidding to become the state’s first black Republican congressman in more than a century, won his primary runoff race.

Scott is now the heavy favorite to win the Republican-leaning House of Representatives district, which includes Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired by southern secessionists. Scott would be the first black Republican in Congress since 2003.

In another primary runoff in South Carolina, six-term Republican Rep. Bob Inglis fell to prosecutor Trey Gowdy, making him the fifth incumbent member of the House or Senate to lose this year in primary season. Gowdy made the race a referendum on the incumbent’s vote for the bank bailout and cast Ingliss as not conservative enough for the district.

Haley beat a congressman in a race that illustrates the politics of an anti-establishment year, with frustrated voters casting ballots against candidates with strong ties to Washington and the political party establishment.

The South Carolina elections could also provide a measure of both racial progress in the South and the Republicans’ ability to diversify.

Republicans and their conservative tea party allies hope to capitalize on voter anger at the massive Gulf oil spill, government bailouts of Wall Street and high unemployment to weaken President Barack Obama and his Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in the November congressional elections.

The divisions in Republican Party ranks, however, have offered hope among some Democrats that they can reverse historical trends. Traditionally, the president’s party suffers in so-called midterm elections, those that are held two years after presidential elections.

In Utah, another closely watched Republican primary runoff featured split conservative backing for the two candidates vying to succeed three-term US Sen. Bob Bennett. Bennett was ousted at the Republican state convention last month by tea party activists who punished him for his support of the bank bailout.

So-called tea party voters are community activists with conservative and libertarian views who believe government has grown too large, taking too much from them in taxes and undercutting individual liberties.

Palin, the former Alaska governor who was Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, has become a champion of tea party voters who are disillusioned with government. She endorsed both Haley and Scott.

Perhaps no other contest illustrated voter frustration better than the runoff between Haley, a state legislator, and Barrett, a four-term congressman who has had to answer for his 2008 vote for the unpopular Wall Street bailout.

Haley, a married mother of two, spent the weeks before the June 8 primary denying allegations by a blogger and a lobbyist that they’d had physical relationships with her. Shortly after those accusations, Haley also had to face being called a ”raghead” _ a derogatory term for people of Middle Eastern or Indian descent _ by a backer of one opponent.

Haley handily beat Barrett, two other Republicans and allegations of infidelity two weeks ago, but she didn’t earn the 50 per cent needed to win the nomination outright, triggering a runoff that grew nastier by the day.

Instead of scuttling her bid, voters have rejected the nasty campaigning. With 66 per cent of the precincts reporting in the runoff, Haley led with 65 per cent of the vote to Barrett’s 35 per cent.

Her primary victory set off talk of a possible vice presidential campaign in 2012. As a woman from a state that plays a crucial role in the presidential primaries, she would bring a combination of diversity and conservatism that many in the Republican party have been seeking.

Indian-American wins US gov primary runoff

Indian-American wins US gov primary runoff

Meanwhile, Scott defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of the late US Sen. and formersegregationist Strom Thurmond. With 83 per cent of precincts counted, Scott led with 69 per cent of the vote to 31 per cent for Thurmond.

The 44-year-old Scott was the first black Republican in the South Carolina legislature in more than a century when elected in 2008.

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