South Carolina governor's race veers from sex to religion

The State (Columbia, S.C.)June 16, 2010 

Religion could emerge as a wedge issue in this year's race for South Carolina governor after Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts' reference to GOP front-runner Nikki Haley as a "raghead" and voter confusion about Haley's religious conversion to Christianity from Sikhism.

It won't be Haley's first tussle over religion.

During Haley's 2004 matchup against state Rep. Larry Koon, the 30-year House veteran mailed a letter to voters pointing out Haley's Indian maiden name, Nimrata Nikki Randhawa. An e-mail campaign also falsely claimed she was a Buddhist.

Democratic front-runner Vincent Sheheen may be in for a dose of it, too.

Sheheen may be the only Catholic in S.C. history to win his party's nomination in a gubernatorial race. (Jim Byrnes, governor from 1951-55, was raised a Catholic but became an Episcopalian as an adult.)

It would not be the first time religion has been used as a tool in the rough-and-tumble world of S.C. politics.

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