Haley, Scott Win S.C. Runoff For GOP Nominations

There were elections in North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Mississippi on Tuesday. South Carolina Republicans made news as two GOP candidates broke barriers. Nikki Haley is considered a favorite in the governor's race. State lawmaker Tim Scott defeated the son of late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond for the congressional nomination.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's catch up, now, on the results from primaries in North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Mississippi.

South Carolina Republicans made news as two Republican candidates broke barriers. And we have more this morning from NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON: South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley overcame accusations of infidelity and an ethnic slur to become to the first woman in South Carolina, and the first Indian-American in that state, to be nominated for governor. She dispatched her runoff opponent, congressman Gresham Barrett, by a comfortable margin.

Haley ran as the insurgent change candidate. During the campaign, she faced questions about her race and religion. She was born a Sikh but converted to Christianity. She held her victory party in front of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Ms. NIKKI HALEY (Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, South Carolina): This is a great night for the thousands of people across this state who believed in this underdog campaign and the message of reform.

LIASSON: Haley had the backing of the state's retiring governor, Mark Sanford, as well as his former wife, Jenny Sanford. And she was endorsed by two possible GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. Haley has token Democratic opposition and is favored to win in the fall.

In another first, Tim Scott, an African-American Tea Party-backed Republican, won the GOP nomination in South Carolina's First Congressional District. He beat Paul Thurmond, the son of the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, once a symbol of Southern resistance to integration. The First is a solid Republican district, so it's likely that Scott will go on to become the fourth black Republican in the House of Representatives in nearly a century.

In South Carolina's Seventh District, the sitting Republican congressman, Bob Inglis, was the latest victim of anti-incumbent anger. Inglis had been hammered for his support of the bank bailout, and last night he was defeated by his Tea Party-backed opponent, Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy.

In Mississippi, Republicans chose an African-American candidate, Bill Marcy, to face Democratic incumbent Benny Thompson. In Utah, Republicans chose attorney Mike Lee over businessman Tim Bridgewater in the Republican runoff for Senate. The incumbent Republican senator, Bob Bennett, lost his seat when he placed third behind both Bridgewater and Lee at a party convention in the spring.

Both Lee and Bridgewater had sought Tea Party support. They agreed on almost everything, and because Utah is one of the most solid Republican states in the country, Lee is almost assured a victory in the fall.

On the Democratic side, there was a primary runoff for Senate in North Carolina. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall beat former State Senator Cal Cunningham. Marshall was the insurgent in that race, if only because Cunningham was favored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington. Marshall is considered a long shot against incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr in the fall.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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