(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- Tea Party favorite Nikki Haley rode the conservative wave to the governor's office in South Carolina, as ABC News projects she will defeat Democrat state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
Haley, a former state representative, not only gives the Tea Party movement its first governor -- she also will become the first female governor of South Carolina. In the first open gubernatorial election in South Carolina since 1994, Haley was a Tea Party favorite and dubbed one of Sarah Palin's "mama grizzles." Born Nimrata Randhawa in Bamberg, S.C., to parents who emigrated from India, Haley had been fighting an uphill battle with Sheheen for weeks.
Preliminary exit poll results found that 54 percent of South Carolina voters said the Tea Party movement was not a factor in their vote Tuesday, but 40 percent said they supported the Tea Party, 33 percent opposed it and 25 percent were neutral.
Nearly half of South Carolina voters surveyed, 49 percent, identified themselves as conservatives -- the largest share in governor or Senate elections in the state in data since 1996.
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