(CNN) - South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, surging in the race ahead of the June 8 Republican primary, is forcefully denying a claim that she once had an extramarital affair with a prominent South Carolina political blogger.
Will Folks, the editor of what many consider the state's most influential political news Web site, wrote Monday that he had an "an inappropriate physical relationship" with Haley, who is married with two children, several years ago. The story was quickly picked up by other political news outlets.
"I have been 100 percent faithful to my husband throughout our 13 years of marriage," Haley said in a statement issued by her campaign. "This claim against me is categorically and totally false."
Haley called the accusation "sad" and "disgraceful" and questioned the timing of the charge, which comes just days after some polls indicated Haley vaulting to the front of the four-way Republican primary race.
"These attacks – and those sure to follow – are an effort at distraction, but I will keep my focus on what matters, and that is delivering South Carolina's government back to our people," she said. "That's a fight I have fought for the last five years. That's why I entered this race for Governor. And that's what I will continue to do, despite any outrageous and false claims that are thrown at me."
Haley canceled an interview with a local television station in Columbia after the accusation was posted online.
Folks is a former spokesman for Republican Gov. Mark Sanford who left the governor's office in 2005. Days later, he was charged with an incident of domestic violence for which he plead guilty but avoided jail time. Folks then launched FITSNews.com, a Web site dedicated to promoting conservative reform efforts in the state that quickly became a go-to clearinghouse for Palmetto State political news and gossip.
Folks - a supporter of Haley's - said he decided to write about the relationship after it became clear that rival campaigns were leaking information about it to the media.
"This network of operatives has made it abundantly clear that in the process of 'taking down' Rep. Haley, they will also stop at nothing to humiliate me, destroy my family and take a sizable chunk out of the credibility this website has managed to amass for itself," he wrote. "Such is the blood sport of S.C. politics, I suppose – particularly in the wake of the scandal that consumed my former boss, Gov. Mark Sanford."
Haley was urged to run for the state's top office last year by allies of Sanford, who saw the state legislator as an ideological heir to the fiscally conservative governor. Folks has written favorably about Haley's bid for governor, calling her the best candidate to "advance the ideals I believe in." (He has also complimented Haley in other ways; in 2008, he described her as "hot as hell.")
But Folks has also refused to shy away from attacking many of the state's entrenched political figures – a crusade that has earned him more than a few enemies in the famously tribal world of South Carolina politics.
Haley became the target of attacks from her rivals in the GOP primary over the last two weeks after a series of television ads and an endorsement from Sarah Palin gave her a well-timed burst of momentum in the closing stages of the campaign. Haley's GOP opponents are Attorney General Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Rep. Gresham Barrett.
Though little-known at the outset of her campaign, Haley became a popular figure within the conservative movement and among Tea Party activists who saw her as a fresh face and a vehicle for small government ideals.
Her campaign has also been boosted by endorsements from Palin, who held a rally with Haley earlier this month, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate who is considering another run for the White House.
Haley was an ally of Sanford's in the state legislature, and though the governor steered clear of endorsing her after he revealed an extramarital affair last summer, Haley does have the backing of First Lady Jenny Sanford.
After Haley issued her denial Monday, an associate of Folks told CNN: "He has nothing to add to his comments regarding this matter and will not be conducting any further interviews on the subject."
Story updated at 1:17 p.m. ET
Here's my two-cents worth: If you are going to speak the truth about an untruthful smear, why cancel the interview? It just makes you look guilty. It is as though you needed to be "prepped" to speak on the subject. Either you cheated on your spouse or you didn't. No need for "categorically" denying anything. A flat out 'it's a lie' will suffice; no one can trip you up if what you're saying is the truth.
Ms. Haley....I think you've got issues. If not regarding this 'affair' then I would venture to say about other skeletons in your closet that could come tumbling out.
Nice. The tea party is being taken for the ride of its short life.
Nobody has affairs. Everyone knows that.
Hope she is being truthful. If not it will all come out and she will look really bad.
This is soooooo wrong!!! I'm not a republican but republicans should be ashamed of themselves for throwing this kinda dirt at this woman. Can this man prove that he had a relationship with her??? Trust me -NO!!! But the press are helping spread this ugly rumor, instead of trying to investigate it first.
Considering the many stories that have appeared in the news this last year, regarding romantic affairs, it appears that the Republicans don't always say "NO".
Well, I for one believe her; we all know that all of these people in the political arena always are honest and truthful...
I am a Democrat and this even stinks to me. I do not want to see this woman elected but the timing is very interesting.
What exactly is an "inappropiate physical relationship"?
More smear from the liberal propaganda machine ... the Democrats are desperate because the Obamabots are coming out of their "hope and change" coma.
Wake up people! In 2010, vote American, vote Republican!
Maybe she was cheating with the last governor near the Appalachian Trail...LOL
OMG?!?!?!?! A woman has an affair?!?!?!?! Is this the Twi-Light Zone?
Family values, yeah right. One question though: If Republicans wan less or no Government then why are they trying to dictate who can sleep with who and what a woman should do with her own body? I would say that this candidate might know. LOL hahahaha
It's over for the Republican Party. They lost all credibility with Sarah Palin. Now there is seemingly no end to the stream of "family values" hypocrites being exposed.
Awww, the poor Republicans are being VICTIMIZED again by the MSM..... What a bunch of BABIES.
If she fesses up and apologizes as Mr. Blumenthal did then maybe ok...... but that ain't going to happen.
BTW, I think Blumenthal should step aside. If you can make that kind of statement, you don't need to be in Washington. Until we stop the overinflating of personal narratives and get down to factual representation of records and policies we'll never get out of the perpetual fingerpointing and hype that has come to be the norm in politics today.
For "notalemming", Tell that to all the Democrats in the VA hospitals, moron.
Hey stop critizing she a GOPer she stands for Family Values, Family Values, Family Values.... the more you have the more Valuable
Must be a trend in South Carolina to cheat on your spouse...Any hoot it's funny but sad but then again it's so much the norm to have our Politicians say and do one thing then turn around and do the exact opposite.
There must be something in the water down there! This is becoming a real pattern!