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Haley, Scott win GOP nods in pivotal S.C. runoff races

By Liz Sidoti and Jim Davenport
Associated Press / June 23, 2010

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a break from the state’s racist legacy, South Carolina Republicans overwhelmingly chose Nikki Haley, an Indian-American woman, to run for governor and easily nominated Tim Scott, in line to become the former Confederate stronghold’s first black GOP congressman in more than a century.

Bob Inglis, a six-term Republican representative, fell to prosecutor Trey Gowdy, making him the fifth House or Senate incumbent to stumble this year.

In North Carolina, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall won the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, in the fall. Attorney Mike Lee took an early lead as Utah Republicans chose a GOP successor to vanquished Senator Bob Bennett in a state that has not elected a Democratic senator in four decades. In Mississippi, voters chose Republican Bill Marcy to face Representative Bennie Thompson.

Taken together, the victories by Haley and Scott — both favorites for the general election in November — offered clear signs of racial progress in the South.

Yesterday’s runoffs and primaries played out in four states, the latest cluster of contests to determine matchups for the midterm congressional elections just over four months away.

Already, 2010 is shaping up to be an antiestablishment year with angry voters casting ballots against candidates with ties to Washington and the political parties.

Perhaps no other contest illustrated that better than Haley’s. A state legislator with the backing of the Tea Party movement and Sarah Palin, she overtook the old-boy network.

“South Carolina just showed the rest of the country what we’re made of,’’ Haley said. “It’s a new day in our state, and I am very blessed to be a part of it.’’

Haley, 38, moved one step closer to becoming the first female governor in the conservative-leaning state. She also secured her place as a rising female star in the GOP. She stands as the front-runner in the race against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Senator Vincent Sheheen. Mark Sanford, the disgraced GOP governor, is leaving because of term limits.

Scott, 44, also a state lawmaker, beat Paul Thurmond, the son of late US senator and former segregationist Strom Thurmond, in the runoff.