Nikki Haley, the tea party favorite who overcame controversy and rose to national prominence this year, was elected South Carolina's first female governor Tuesday.
With nearly 70 percent of precincts reporting, the rising Republican star had collected 52 percent of the vote. Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen had 46 percent. Sheheen congratulated Haley on Tuesday night, saying the race had been "oh, oh, so close."
In a state that has elected only white males to the Governor's Mansion, the former state lawmaker's election is historic.
Haley, the daughter of Sikh immigrants, will be the state's first nonwhite governor - and the nation's second Indian-American governor.
Early this year, Haley won endorsements from GOP luminaries including Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford. She went on to beat three better-financed, better-established opponents in the GOP primary.
Polls showed that Haley had lost some of her edge during the final weeks of her campaign. But running in a conservative state during a difficult year for Democrats, Sheheen faced an uphill fight.
Haley will succeed Mark Sanford, a Republican whose final 18 months in office were marred by revelations of an affair with an Argentine woman and the breakup of his marriage.
Haley has championed causes popular with the tea party movement. She has vowed to fight the federal health care reform law and has said she would advocate an immigration law similar to the one in Arizona that was struck down by a federal judge.
She has also proposed eliminating South Carolina's corporate income tax and taking other steps to make the state more friendly to business.
She advocates privatizing some government functions such as public school transportation. She also wants corporations to help struggling libraries.
Her campaign successfully fought off potentially damaging allegations.
Two men have said they had extramarital affairs with her - claims she has denied.
Records show that Haley, a 38-year-old former clothing store accountant, has been repeatedly late paying her income taxes since 2003. She and her husband have paid more than $4,000 in fines.
Sheheen, 39, hails from a political family.
His uncle served as speaker of the S.C. House and his father ran the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
Sheheen, a Camden attorney who has served for 10 years in the S.C. General Assembly, has contended that Haley accomplished little in the Legislature.
During her six years in the state House, Haley was able to pass one bill: It allowed unlicensed people in beauty shops to shampoo hair.
For much of the past eight years, the governor and the legislature have been at odds.
Sheheen said he wanted to bridge that divide.
The S.C. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed him partly because of its belief that Sheheen can foster cooperation between the executive and legislative branches.
Morgan Bruce Reeves, who ran for governor as the candidate of the Green and United Citizens parties, collected about 1.5 percent of the vote.