Republican gubernatorial front-runner Nikki Haley said Wednesday that a rival, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, is behind a last-minute attack, raising questions about her marital fidelity in an effort to undermine her campaign.
With less than a week before Tuesday’s primary, Bauer's campaign said in a press release Wednesday that a Bauer political consultant, Larry Marchant, was asked to leave the campaign for "inappropriate conduct not in keeping with the goals of this campaign."
Marchant, contacted by The State, said the conduct the press release referred to was a one-night sexual encounter that he had with Haley during a June 2008 school-choice convention in Salt Lake City.
"I disclosed to Andre Bauer several days ago that I had a one-time indiscretion with Nikki Haley," said Marchant, an influential and well-known State House lobbyist whose clients include BlueCross BlueShield. "I told him that I didn't want to do anything to discredit his campaign and that I would resign. He thought that that was in the campaign's best interest. He appreciated my straightforwardness."
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Haley's campaign denied the claims and said the allegation is proof of how low rival campaigns will go to undermine her candidacy. Recent polls have shown Haley, a state representative from Lexington County, has a double-digit lead over her three rivals, Bauer of Greenville, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster and state Attorney General Henry McMaster of Columbia.
At a Charleston television debate Wednesday, Haley said Bauer was pushing the infidelity story.
"Y'all were fishing the story (Tuesday) night, and you didn't fire him (Tuesday)," Haley said to Bauer. "It was only when no one was taking the story seriously, because he was a paid consultant, that you decided to fire him."
"The minute I found out that there was something wrong, I said, 'Wait a minute, I don't want to be associated with it,' Bauer responded. "I haven't gotten involved in anyone else's personal relationship."
Marchant's claim came on the same day the Haley campaign released a new TV ad decrying the "dark side" of politics and prominently featuring her husband, Michael, and the Haleys' two children.
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