(CNN) - A well-connected South Carolina lobbyist and political consultant claimed Wednesday that he had a one night stand with gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley – making him the second man to allege an affair with the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Larry Marchant, a familiar face at the South Carolina State House who has lobbied legislators on behalf of the insurance industry and the state Chamber of Commerce, told CNN he had a “one night, one night only” sexual relationship with Haley at a school choice conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2008.
Marchant offered no specific evidence of the affair and the Haley campaign forcefully rejected the latest accusation.
“I just wanted to tell the truth,” Marchant told CNN in a telephone interview. “She can deny it. Let the people decide. I know what happened, and my conscience is clear.”
Marchant said he and Haley, a state Representative, grew “very close” in 2008 when she served on the House insurance subcommittee and he was chief lobbyist for the insurance industry. Both Marchant and Haley are married with children.
“This was nothing more than two political colleagues who work very closely together for many years having one inappropriate relationship,” he said.
Until this week, Marchant was also a top campaign adviser to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer – one of Haley’s three rivals in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Campaign finance records show that Bauer's campaign has paid Marchant’s political consulting firm more than $50,000 in the past year.
Bauer’s campaign fired Marchant on Wednesday for what it deemed “inappropriate conduct,” and Marchant made the allegation shortly after news of his dismissal became public.
Marchant said he revealed the relationship to his pregnant wife last week after conservative blogger Will Folks made his own claim, without proof, that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley in 2007. He said he informed Bauer “at the end of last week” after reporters began chasing rumors about the alleged tryst.
Haley’s campaign rejected Marchant’s allegation as “a false and outrageous desperate attack from a losing candidate's paid campaign consultant in the final week of the race.”
“As Nikki Haley rises in the polls, the good old boys in Columbia see their taxpayer-funded fraternity party coming crumbling down, and they will say or do anything to hold onto their power,” said Haley campaign manager Tim Pearson. “This is South Carolina politics at its worst. The people of our state deserve better, and when Nikki Haley is Governor, they'll get it."
Haley’s campaign questioned Marchant’s credibility, pointing out his financial stake in the Bauer campaign and his arrest in Columbia last December on DUI charges.
Marchant said he has had “very little contact” with Haley since she announced her gubernatorial bid last year. He did say, however, that he sent her a text message after Folks made his accusation last week “saying I thought she handled it very well.”
Along with Haley and Bauer, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Rep. Gresham Barrett are also seeking the GOP gubernatorial nod.
An adviser to the Barrett campaign, which last week denied pushing rumors about Haley and Folks, sent a wire story about Marchant's allegation to reporters shortly after the news broke Wednesday.
As the Stomach Turns....Nothing like gop "family values"!
As a South Carolinian, I am completely embarrased by the Republican Party of this state. Nikki Haley is nothing but Mark Sanford in a dress and she is not what we need because Sanford has not worked for us over the past 8 years. Regardless if these claims are true, all of the Republicans seem so focused on who is sleeping with who rather than the issues that this state is facing.
I don't know how long she can brush this stuff off. I don't completely buy that Nikki Haley didn't have an affair with either of these two men- I don't know why two people in her own party would be saying this, unless she somehow isn't conservative enough. How that is I don't know- Haley is just short of Palin or Michelle Bachmann. Does everyone absolutely have to meet that standard for the GOP now? But yeah, this isn't going to go away quickly, especially if it's true. Let's not get to thinking that woman with power would be more moral than a man with power. Power is power, a being a politician seems to give people a huge sense of entitlement, their own personal carte blanche to do whatever they want. I don't want to crucify anyone preemptively, but I would not be surprised if this all ended up being true.
Also, this new accuser is married with children. Why would he stupidly risk his family by telling a blatant lie? Who knows- maybe he's a major scumbag, maybe both accusers have been bought by another candidate. But really, this story won't go away. Haley is really going to have to deal with this.
This whole thing is bizarre. If you were a married man with children would you "tell the truth" ? Not sure what's going on here but I don't believe any of them (her or the guys).
So she's 'battling' claims of infidelity by having her husband in an ad?
And TWO men have accused her of infidelity and her husband is still standing by her?
Keep championing those 'family values,' GOP.
These things are always entertaining.
I can't help it. I feel sorry for the husband but if he's going to sit silently by while the accusations fly, I guess he doesn't mind.
It is unfortunate that people try to smear others.
If no proof is offered, then why make an absurd claim. I have never met
Nikki Haley and there is nothing stoping me from making such an outrageous claim either. But doing that does not mean that I am right.
Politics is suppose to be dirty, but such behaviour is plain filth.
This is politics? This is news? This is anyone's business? This sounds like high school!
Sounds like she has polls rising everywhere.......
You have to feel bad for Nikki haley. To have all these conservatives saying she had an affair must be tough on her public and personal life. but personally, i have to disagree with the tea party style logic that this is a liberal conspiracy. As of today, all the players involved as still firmly right wing in everything they stand for. And again, i must point out that this isn't really news. Just because it's a woman in the spotlight doesn't change the fact this is a typical, holier than thou person who falls far short of the moral bar they set for everyone else. But at least she has a Republican support structure to help her through this PR nightmare, and she has Sarah Palin.
Unfortunately for the Republican candidates here in SC the increasingly toxic nature of their primary race only serves to bolster the more professional candidacy of Democrat Vincent Sheheen who remains above the circus. AG McMaster, a Republican is the innocent bystander who might have been a viable chief executive as well.