Voters favored newcomers over veterans Tuesday in a trio of closely watched runoff elections in South Carolina, where Republicans elevated an Indian-American woman as their nominee for governor, ousted a six-term congressman and chose an African-American over a son of onetime segregationist Strom Thurmond.
Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley soundly defeated U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, making the 38-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants the prohibitive favorite to succeed term-limited and scandal-plagued GOP Gov. Mark Sanford.
Haley had weathered allegations of marital infidelity, as well as derogatory remarks from a Republican state senator about her ethnic background. She finished in first place in South Carolina's June 8 primary, but just shy of the 50 percent threshold she needed to avoid the runoff. An endorsement from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin vaulted her past her rivals, including Barrett, in the weeks leading up to the primary.
Republican voters in two House of Representatives districts at opposite ends of the state settled on their nominees. In South Carolina's upcountry, Rep. Bob Inglis lost his bid for a seventh term to prosecutor Trey Gowdy. Along the state's coastline, state Rep. Tim Scott, a black Republican, beat Paul Thurmond, the youngest son of the late senator, to compete in November for an open seat created by the retirement of Rep. Henry Brown.
Scott, 44, also was endorsed by Palin. Congress hasn't had a black Republican since Rep. J.C. Watts left seven years ago.
With Republicans outnumbering Democrats in South Carolina, Haley, Gowdy and Scott are favored to win in November.