Run-offs to watch Tuesday: South Carolina, Utah, Mississippi and North Carolina

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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A handful of states hold elections on Tuesday, and the at-times-steamy South Carolina gubernatorial race is likely to be among the most closely watched as Nikki Haley faces off against Rep. Gresham Barrett in a Republican run-off.

Haley, an Indian-American who has battled unsubstantiated claims of infidelity and a whisper campaign about the depth of her Christian faith, narrowly missed winning the Republican primary outright last month by failing to reach the 50 percent threshold. Her opponent Barrett has resisted calls to drop out of the run-off after pulling in 22 percent to Haley’s 49 percent in the first contest.

“I said that I had been falsely accused. I think my record’s distorted. And I said we’re going to give people a choice,” Barrett said, according to the State newspaper in South Carolina. “I feel like I’ve got a very honorable record. I feel like I’ve got a conservative record.”

The governor’s race has been a spectator sport in the Palmetto State this year. The election is to fill the seat of retiring Gov. Mark Sanford, whose relationship with his “soul mate” from Argentina garnered national attention. Haley, who is married with children, was accused by a blogger of an affair, and later again by another political operative. She’s denied any infidelity. (The blogger who made one of the accusations, Will Folks, offered perhaps the most unwanted endorsement of the cycle by endorsing Haley last week).

Other states holding run-offs include Utah, Mississippi and North Carolina.

In Utah, the big race is the Republican primary for defeated Sen. Bob Bennett’s seat. Bennett  lost his chance to run for re-election at the state’s caucus by placing in third place among the Republican candidates. A recent poll shows Tim Bridgewater besting Mike Lee 42 percent to 33 percent. But with low turnout, The Salt Lake Tribune points out, anything could happen”

All told, turnout is expected to be about 10 percent, meaning 140,000 voters could pick the nominees for a slew of offices.

In the Republican Senate primary, they may effectively choose Utah’s next senator, since Utah hasn’t elected a Democrat in four decades.

The mad scramble between Bridgewater and Lee came about after, riding a wave of D.C. disgust, they vanquished three-term Sen. Bob Bennett at the state convention -—the first time in seven decades an incumbent senator failed to get his party’s nomination.

Bennett was portrayed as a “Republican in Name Only,” and both Lee and Bridgewater are conservatives duking it out for Tea Party support.

In North Carolina, Democrats Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham are battling to take on Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The Charlotte Observer reported that Burr has raised about 20 times as much as Marshall and about 13 times as much as Cunningham.

In Mississippi, two Republicans are facing off in the second congressional district to take on longtime Democrat Bennie Thompson. Richard Cook, a teacher, is facing Bill Marcy, a retired Chicago Police Department employee.

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