Former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford says the state's politics should be above ethnic slurs and allegations of infidelity.
Her comments came a day after Lexington County Sen. Jake Knotts called Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who is of Indian decent, a "raghead." The term is used to belittle Arabs and others who wear turbans or headdresses.
"I have watched with revulsion the spectacle that is now surrounding the governor's race," Sanford said. "Our state is better than this."
For Knotts, who apologized immediately, the slur has put a target on his back. Though he will not have to run for his seat again for two more years, a past opponent said Friday she plans to take another shot at him.
Former Lexington County Republican chairman Katrina Shealy announced she will seek a rematch. Knotts defeated Shealy in 2008 in a heated primary that highlighted the cultural and political differences among the county's Republicans.
Shealy said Knotts' use of the slur "raghead" to describe Haley and President Barack Obama was unacceptable.
Knotts' comments were condemned by Republicans and Democrats alike. Some say the Republican race for governor has grown increasingly coarse in the weeks leading to the June 8 vote, putting South Carolina in a negative light nationally.
Over the past two weeks, Haley, who is leading in the most recent polling, has faced two separate allegations of infidelity. Haley, a member of the S.C. House from Lexington County, has said repeatedly she has been faithful to her husband.
Jenny Sanford has endorsed Haley in the race, which includes U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster. Knotts, also a Lexington County Republican, is a supporter of Bauer.
Gov. Mark Sanford also defended Haley.
"You get in the last couple of weeks in a political campaign and all kinds of zany stuff goes on, and much of it is all about trying to throw up as much mud against the wall, hoping that something will stick," said Mark Sanford. "By and large people can see it for what it is."
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