(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
Usually what we're supposed to do is assume innocence-until-proven-guilty. But then this is South Carolina where seemingly the rules aren't quite the same. Haley's denials are on the shrill side-so expect the "worst"-another southern fornicator in office. (just awful isn't it, bluenoses?)
Considering the track record of GOP candidates lately, I suspect that accusation is just as true as the rest have turned out to be. Many of them seem to be the "do as I say, not as I do since I'm powerful and above everyone" type of people.
Even republican women have no family values. This is such a trend on the right.
One more shining example of south carolina's moral republicans running for office to teach the people of state morality. Shame on them.
How interesting: A Republican sex scandal that doesn't involve men and boys.
I don`t see what he`s got to lose compared to her!!! She could lose it all-- Power, Wealth, social standing, etc. It`s time we hold all politicians up to certain standards.
Yet one more shining example of a family values Republican being exposed as the phonies they are.
I don't care if she's had 15 affairs. I'd put her up against any of those "so call perfect" men that are running. Leave her alone. People just can't let women hold the power.
One after the other they are put on light that family values is just only words to them and not actions. She also got an endorsement from the queen of Alaska! All her endorsements are bad apples it looks like!
Deny–Deny–Deny–Then ask for forgiveness and apologize when the truth comes out. We have seen this a thousand times, when will politicians ever learn....
Seems as if Folks is looking for his 10 seconds of fame. People who make charges like this close to an election know exactly what they are doing. By the time the charge is finally proven to be a lie it will have already damaged the candidate. I never heard of Folks before but it's obvious he's a scumbag.
This is South Carolina good old boys network or should I say good old girls this time. Liars.
She soon will by crying, praying and begging for forgiveness soon. Give it a couple minutes until there is proof.
Just because she's a woman doesn't rule out the fact that this next generation of Republican is any less a philandering liar. I mean isn't that one of the qualities the good folks in South Carolina look for in their elected leaders?
They all deny it at first, thinking the are invinicible and will finally be the one that gets away with it. Alas, they simply make the media dig deeper and it all comes out.
Let's see....shenanigans in SC during a GOP primary effort where insidious personal charges are being leveled that can finish a successful campaign.
Anybody know Karl Rove's whereabouts?
John McCain, what do you think? After all, you have first hand experience with this type of tactic in that state.
It's the GOP way! It doesn't matter if you're male or female, preach family values and then sleep around any time you want because you think you're above every body else, that you have some sort of special ethics that only apply to you. In case you're wondering what that special ethic is called, it's called HYPOCRITE.
Vote NO in NOvember to the party of NO.
She better hope that there's no emails, dna or other incriminating trails he can use to verify this, cause as we all know, those in office or running for office don't lie.
I watched a debate between the four candidates and the only one that showed any logical sense or didn't seem to pander to the far right wing was Mrs. Haley.
This very backward state desperately needs to elect a politician like her to prove to the rest of the country that the state still has some sane people living within its borders.
Yea right and BP will stop the oil from spilling........
Well, Nikki, words are cheap. If it really isn't true, then of course you should sue for libel. If you don't, then I suppose the good folks of South Carolina will have to decide for themselves why not, and what they think that means.
Another Republican hypocrite bites the dust.
Career-ending affairs are so last century.
I no longer care about anyone doing the hokey pokey outside of their marriage.
This next election is entirely too important to allow the liberal media to distract voters with he-said-she-said pillow talk.
And to my fellow conservatives, don't be fooled by this nonsense. Don't allow the media to wave the smell of "affair" under your nose and distract you.
What matters is where this politician aims to take her state... if it's in the direction of Barry's socialism, vote against her. If it's to direct her state and the nation back to the original intent of the founders, support her.
But don't be suckered by the media's red herrings.
The sad thing about this is that there is a good chance that she did indeed have an affair. It's the new "family value".
What is in the water in SC everyone is having an affair.