After a week that was dominated by the budget battle in the General Assembly, the air was sucked out of the room on May 24 when political consultant, blogger and former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, Will Folks, announced on his site that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Rep. Nikki Haley (R–Lexington), who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. The admission came because of
what was then an on–going investigation by Free Times
reporter Corey Hutchins.
Haley immediately cancelled morning media appointments but went on news talk radio in the afternoon to refute the allegation. In a statement released the same day, she maintains she has been “100 percent” faithful to her husband of 16 years. Rumors of an affair have been circulating among state political insiders for some time, dating back to at least 2008. Legislators confirmed to Hutchins that they’ve been hearing talk about it for more than a year.
The Free Times story cited a source who said that last year, Folks called, distraught, to admit the affair and request that the person not go to the media with the information. The same person also said former Haley staffer, and current staffer for gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, B.J. Boling said Haley told him of the affair in 2008.
It’s unknown what effect this latest scandal will have on Haley’s campaign. Former first lady Jenny Sanford and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who have endorsed Haley, stuck by her candidacy as the story unfolded. She also drew renewed support from RedState.com’s Erick Erickson, who began soliciting donations for her campaign. As of the last disclosure reports, Haley drastically trails her rivals for the nomination.
In one of the last public polls, conducted in March, she was fourth in the race. It was the same in a poll conducted by a well–known political consulting firm – without a client running for governor – the week before Palin’s public endorsement at the State House. Subsequently, Haley went from last to first according to Rasmussen, holding a double–digit lead over Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster, with Barrett in third and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in fourth.
The budget fight in the House took a turn during the week, after it was clear there weren’t enough votes to overturn Sanford’s veto of fee increases to pay for state courts, and the 50–cent increase in the cigarette tax. Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Cooper (R–Anderson) put through an amendment that drastically changed the legislation.
It took the fee increases out of the budget, and made up for that with a $50.2 million cut in spending, mostly from the state’s health care system. AIDS prevention, cancer screening, smoking cessation, and rural hospitals all took big hits. The Senate will take a look at the amendment and try to come up with a compromise that can make it past Sanford’s pen, or at least palatable for a veto override.
Wolfe is the proprietor of state politics blog
WolfeReports.com and has written for 11
publications in five states.
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