Nikki Haley, an Indian-American woman, and Tim Scott, an African American, broke barriers in South Carolina politics Tuesday by winning their bids for the Republican nominations for governor and a U.S. House seat in November's midterm election.
Haley, a state representative, is the first South Carolina woman to lead a major party ticket and will face Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen to succeed term-limited Gov. Mark Sanford.
“South Carolina just showed the rest of the country what we’re made of,” Haley told supporters in her victory speech.
"This is a great night for the thousands of people across this state who believed in this underdog campaign and the message of reform," she said.
She added that her campaign and supporters have a clear message to take to the general election: “We want a conservative government, and we want a government that is accountable to the people.”
Haley beat U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in Tuesday's runoff, riding the backlash against the state's notoriously rough-and-tumble politics. She had come within a point of taking the victory outright on June 8. With all precincts reporting, she won with 65 percent of the vote to Barrett's 35 percent.
After facing a raft of accusations of infidelity and gossip about her faith and ethnic background, Haley told Fox News on Wednesday that she "refused to be distracted" by the drama.
"All it did was make me more determined, and I think it showed the greatness of the people of this state," she said, referring to her victory.
Scott, who is also a state representative, beat Paul Thurmond, the son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, in a district that has elected a Republican congressman for three decades. Scott now faces Democrat Ben Frasier, who also is black. If Scott wins, he will become the nation's first black GOP congressman since 2003 when Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired.
The 44-year-old Scott was the first black Republican in the South Carolina Legislature in more than a century when elected in 2008. Before that, he served 13 years on Charleston County Council.
Haley was little known just months ago, but got a crucial boost with early support from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement. She has become the latest female GOP star to face talk of a possible vice presidential campaign in 2010.
Not unlike her supporter and the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, Haley has weathered vicious rumors. She batted down the allegations of affairs and questions about her religious background, having been born Sikh but baptized Methodist.
Haley, who also won the support of former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford, had been a close ally of Gov. Mark Sanford, but the 38-year-old distanced herself from the governor after he admitted an affair with an Argentine woman.
In other races, six-term Republican Rep. Bob Inglis fell to prosecutor Trey Gowdy, making him the 5th incumbent member of the House or Senate to lose this year.
In North Carolina, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall overcame a challenge from state Sen. Cal Cunningham, winning the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Richard Burr in the fall.
Marshall, North Carolina's secretary of state, was the anti-establishment candidate, as Cunningham had garnered support from Washington, having his campaign infused with $100,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. With only a small number of voters coming out for the second vote, Marshall may need the help of DCCC and other Democrats outside the state to take on Burr, who had $5 million in the bank in April compared to Marshall's less than $200,000 in June.
Voters in Utah and Mississippi also decided on their final nominees for November.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.