When voters went to the polls two years ago, Nikki Haley was a South Carolina state representative mostly known for backing Gov. Mark Sanford's vetoes and stepping on toes in a push to force lawmakers to record every one of their votes.
Alvin Greene was toiling away in the Army, an anonymous grunt with a string of bad performance reviews from an earlier stint in the Air Force. Tim Scott was a Charleston County councilman who had just become the first black Republican in the South Carolina House in more than a century.
But 2010's election season thrust all three to the forefront of South Carolina's consciousness and, for a time, the nation's. Haley was elected governor, Scott was elected to Congress and Greene notched an improbable win in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary before losing in the general election. The political scene dominated South Carolina's news during a year in which the state's unemployment peaked, a mother was accused of slaying her children and a sitting governor divorced for the first time.
Scott and Haley, who is Indian-American, helped change the hue of upper echelons of South Carolina's Republican Party. Greene's quixotic, unsophisticated run for the U.S. Senate became for a time the most popular political story in America and left Republican Sen. Jim DeMint free to spend time and millions to bolster the tea party movement.
Other notable political changes included the election of three new congressmen besides Scott. Among them is state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, who knocked off 28-year veteran Rep. John Spratt to become the first Republican to represent the 5th District since 1883. And just last week, the state learned that a boost in population will bring a seventh seat come 2012.