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Nikki Haley wins GOP nomination for governor in South Carolina

Nikki Haley, with the help of Tea Party activists and Sarah Palin, overtook the old boy network to win the GOP runoff.

By Jim Davenport, Liz SidotiAP / June 23, 2010

Nikki Haley, center, is joined on stage by her family, and former opponent, Attorney General Henry McMaster, left, after winning the Republican nomination for governor in Columbia, S.C.,Tuesday, June 22, 201

AP

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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.

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Six-term Republican Rep. Bob Inglis 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 GOP Sen. Richard Burr in the fall. Attorney Mike Lee took a slim early lead as Utah Republicans chose a GOP successor to vanquished Sen. Bob Bennett in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator in four decades. In Mississippi, voters tapped Republican Bill Marcy to face Rep. 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.

Tuesday's runoffs and primaries played out across 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 anti-establishment 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 tea party activists 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 following her victory. "It's a new day in our state, and I am very blessed to be a part of it."

With her victory, Haley 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, if not potential 2012 vice presidential candidate in the early primary state. She stands as the front-runner in the race against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The disgraced GOP Gov. Mark Sanford is leaving the post because of term limits.

Haley brushed aside allegations of marital infidelity and an ethnic slur to come within a percentage point of winning the gubernatorial nod outright on June 8. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in the runoff, she had 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Rep. Gresham Barrett, a four-term congressman who has had to answer for his 2008 vote for the unpopular Wall Street bailout.