When South Carolina Republicans go to the polls on Tuesday to nominate a party candidate for governor, many of them will be choosing between State Rep. Nikki Haley, a Lexington account executive, and Will Folks, a political consultant who isn’t on the ballot but has mounted a campaign to prove he had sex with Haley.

Nikki Haley and Will Folks

Folks has done most of his campaigning on his popular political website, FITSnews.com.  Most recently, Folks, who served as Gov. Mark Sanford’s press secretary from 2001 to 2005, released a log of 700 telephone calls he says were between him and Haley in 2007, when he alleges the “affair” occurred, including one call that began at 2:24 a.m. and lasted more than two hours.  Before that, Folks posted nearly 100 recent text messages, including one from Jim Davenport of The Associated Press asking, “What is this stuff about ur having an affair with Nikki Haley?”  Folks claims it was information that the media were on to his “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley that prompted him to take “preemptive” steps to publicize the “affair” himself.

But Nikki Haley, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Gov. Sanford’s immediate past wife, Jenny Sanford,  claims the only person she has had sex with the past 13 years is her husband, Michael Haley, father of her two children.  She calls the accusations “disgusting politics.”

But, wait, it gets more disgusting.  Larry Marchant, a campaign consultant for Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, one of Nikki Haley’s opponents, suddenly remembered he, too, had had sex with Haley.  Marchant told The State newspaper that it was a one-night stand during a June 2008 school-choice convention in Salt Lake City.  Bauer, who gained notoriety for comparing welfare families to stray animals and blaming illegal immigration on “flat-out lazy” Americans, announced Wednesday that Marchant had resigned.  “Whether it happened or not, I don’t want to be associated with that,” Bauer told the Post and Courier.

Bauer is dealing with sex issues of his own, dispatching political friends to deny rumors that he is gay.  Among those helping circulate those rumors, apparently started by blogactive.com, a website known for outing gay Republicans, is Will Folks.  Folks says Bauer is blaming Gov. Mark Sanford for the rumors.

Who’s telling the truth in all this?  Perhaps nobody.

The text messages and phone logs that Will Folks posted are full of fog.  Most of the text messages are between him and other political operatives about the mounting rumors regarding the alleged affair, rumors some of them may have started themselves.  Folks seems to finger Wes Donehue, a supporter of another GOP candidate, U.S Rep. Gresham Barrett.  In one released message from Donehue to Folks, Donehue declares, “Now, I don’t give a f*** if you believe me or not. Your the one who screwed her. You’re the one who bragged about it. She’s the one who told BJ. Yall point fingers at your own damn selves and leave me the f*** out of it.”  No mention of who BJ is.

As for all the phone calls between Folks and Nikki Haley, he was a speechwriter for her at the time.  In 2007, they very well could have spent two hours in the middle of the night talking politics.

Celebrity right-wing blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com has likened Will Folks’ daily blog updates on his alleged affair to “a high tech lynching.”

Will Folks, who was a bass player for the alternative rock band Dead Agent Caper when Mark Sanford picked him to handle media relations for his first gubernatorial campaign, says he’s only trying to maintain credibility as a political consultant.  But there is evidence he has anger management issues.  He pleaded guilty in 2005 to slamming his then-girlfriend into some furniture during a quarrel.  He got a 30-day suspended sentence.

As for Larry Marchant, the health insurance lobbyist who had worked for Bauer had a well-publicized alcohol episode back in December.  He was arrested for driving under the influence in Columbia.

Nikki Haley may not have been helped exactly by one of her biggest defenders, Gov. Mark Sanford, he of Appalachian Trail-via-Argentina fame.  The public is still not crying for him.  But he did weigh in with this nice assessment:  “I think that people see that stuff for what it is, which is politics as usual and in this case a particularly evil brand of politics as usual.”

How much has this hurt Nikki Haley’s campaign?  Evidently, not at all. Recent polls showed her with a double-digit lead over her three opponents, including Attorney General Henry McMaster, who had hoped his legal assault on President Barack Obama’s health care reform would make him a winner with conservatives.  Maybe Haley started the rumors herself.  Maybe not.

If Haley makes it to the finish line in November, she would be the second Indian-American — Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is the other — to be elected governor from a Southern state.  Her parents are from Amritsar in northwestern India.

Democrats probably should be worried:  No evidence has surfaced that they are having sex.

Related: Haley whips guys in erotic S.C. governor’s race

Check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.