South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who is vying for the Republican nomination for governor, came out on Friday and called the divisive politics characterizing the state's primary race -- which has seen attacks ranging from allegations of sexual affairs to the use of racial slurs -- "embarrassing."
"The behavior of my opponents, their campaigns and their supporters over the last few weeks has not served our state well," McMaster said in a statement. "In fact, it's been embarrassing."
The GOP hopeful also demanded his Republican rivals stop exchanging fiery and controversial shots at one another -- attacks which he called "nonsense" and that have commanded national media attention in recent weeks. "They should rein in their attention-starved surrogates, re-focus on the important issues at hand, and renew their commitment to putting South Carolina's interest above their own self-interest," he said.
McMaster has been relegated to the sidelines while his three primary opponents, Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and state Rep. Nikki Haley, have become entangled in a messy and very public political battle stemming from allegations of extramarital affairs leveled against Haley.
Despite her insistence that nothing inappropriate happened between herself and either of her alleged lovers -- conservative blogger Will Folks and Bauer-ally and lobbyist Larry Marchant -- the charges of infidelity brought against the Tea Party favorite have sparked a firestorm of attacks.
A McMaster spokesman said of the latest shots fired in the Republican primary: "It's embarrassing that all three of our opponents have allowed their campaigns and surrogates to escalate this mud-slinging sideshow into a three-ring media circus."
Politico's Ben Smith reports on reaction from Haley's camp to McMaster's criticism:
Emails Haley spokesman Tim Pearson: "Nikki has said from the very first day these ridiculous allegations and sideshows started that she would not be distracted from the issues and people that matter to South Carolina. She has stayed very true to that, in spite of the opponent-fueled chaos now surrounding this race. We appreciate the Attorney General speaking out - nearly two weeks into this 'nonsense' - but, frankly, he should direct his ire elsewhere."