Crucial face-off between Sanford and Colbert Busch
April 29th, 2013
02:27 PM ET
1 year ago

Crucial face-off between Sanford and Colbert Busch

(CNN) – They've been going after each other from a distance. Now they get to do it in person.

Monday evening former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch debate for the first time in their battle for the Palmetto State's vacant congressional seat, in an entertaining race that's grabbed national attention.

The showdown, being held at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, is likely the only face-off prior to next Tuesday's special election for the disgraced former Republican governor brought down by an affair and the sister of satirist and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert.

Last week Sanford, who's seeking political redemption by running for his old House seat, debated a cardboard cutout poster of Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker and current minority leader. It was an attempt to call out his Democratic opponent for not facing off in person. Sanford had invited Colbert Busch, an official with Clemson University's wind turbine drive testing facility, to a series of debates prior to the May 7 special election, but the Democratic candidate accepted only the Monday night debate.

"My opponent has done a great job of hiding her real views from scrutiny in an effort to be all things to all people, and my hope is that tonight we'll get to the heart of the matter of what she really represents – yet another vote for Nancy Pelosi and the destructive policies that have put spending on a completely unsustainable pace," said Sanford Monday in a statement.

Sanford said that a vote for Colbert Busch would also be a vote for Pelosi, who has high negatives with Republican voters and who most likely would become House speaker again if the Democrats run the table and regain control of the chamber in the 2014 midterm elections.

Colbert Busch has responded, saying the compressed time frame of the special election is forcing her to focus on talking with voters in the district instead of debating Sanford.

"While Mark Sanford continues his desperate campaign to deceive voters, Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign – today alone," said Colbert Busch press secretary James Smith. "She doesn't have to resort to phony cardboard cutouts to talk with the people of South Carolina."

Sanford was in his second term as governor in 2009 when he briefly disappeared from public view for several days and re-emerged, claiming he'd been hiking the Appalachian Trail. He later admitted that he was actually in Argentina, seeing the woman with whom he was having an affair. He's now engaged to that woman.

The episode sank any hopes Sanford had of making a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Sanford and then-wife Jenny were divorced in 2010 and he finished his second term as governor in January 2011, exiting to what many thought would be political obscurity.

But he's back, beating out 15 other candidates last month to win the Republican nomination in a congressional district that the GOP has held for over 30 years.

Sanford himself served three terms representing the district before running for governor. And even with all his political baggage, he was considered the favorite in the May election until three weeks ago, when court documents revealed his ex-wife, Jenny, had filed complaints against Sanford for trespassing on her property. He's scheduled for a court appearance two days after the election.

Not long after the story broke, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was pulling out of the race and national Democratic groups announced they were throwing more money into the contest.

While Sanford has stayed on the attack, with the narrator in a campaign TV commercial out last week saying Colbert Busch is "fighting for big labor" and has been "funded by labor union special interest money," Colbert Bush's campaign has mostly left the counter attacks to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the independent pro-Democratic House Majority PAC.

The debate, sponsored by the Patch news service, the South Carolina Radio Network and Charleston TV station WCBD, will be 75 minutes in length, with 12 sections of questions following the candidates two minute opening statements. Colbert Busch won the coin toss, allowing her to go first.

"This the only debate in the first truly competitive congressional general election in Charleston since 1980 – and with the polls showing Elizabeth Colbert Busch narrowly ahead, this debate could be pivotal," says Jon Avlon, political columnist for Newsweek and the Daily Beast and a CNN contributor, who's the host of the debate.

"Mark Sanford has experience on his side – he's debated dozens of times in his career, while this is Colbert Busch's first debate. Momentum seems to be on her side, but this debate is where substance meets sentiment," adds Avlon, who's family has lived in South Carolina for years.

The debate organizers say they want to keep the debate focused on policy, so the big question going into the showdown is if Sanford's personal controversies will come up. Sanford has been touting his fiscal conservative credentials as he runs. But he can't seem to escape the affair. Sunday several roadside Sanford signs that said "Sanford saves tax $" had signs that said "Remember Argentina" placed next to them.

The congressional seat became vacant when Rep. Tim Scott, who won re-election by 27 percentage points in last November's election, was named by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the Senate seat of Sen. Jim DeMint, who stepped down late last year to take over as the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.


Filed under: House • Mark Sanford • South Carolina
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. ST

    Who emerged as a winner when Sanford debated the cardboard? and who was the moderator? This man is totally only good for Argentina women no more than that.

    April 29, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    I'm not holding out hope that people in SC will actually vote for the REAL person, and not the fake, self-righteous, derelict in his duties philanderer

    April 29, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    The moment Sanford opens his mouth, he loses. He can't possibly debate Cobert-Busch on the issues, because he's refused or been unable to address them during the compaign. A fatally-flawed lech can't debate someone with ideas and who wants to serve the people of her district: by the way, Mark, where will you watch the Super Bowl next year? Buenos Aires?

    April 29, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. NEVER to VOTE REPUBLICAN again

    Vote Elizabeth S.C.! Do the right thing and don't let the liar stanford in!

    April 29, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    "Mark Sanford has experience on his side – he's debated dozens of times in his career, while this is Colbert Busch's first debate. Momentum seems to be on her side, but this debate is where substance meets sentiment,"
    -------------------------------------------------
    Actually, this is where Senor Sanford gets put on blast for being A.W.O.L. and gets called out for being an adulterer and misusing taxpayer money.

    April 29, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Sanford certainly will have the practice and experience to dominate the debate. He'll liklely come out swinging and not let up in hopes he can just bully her down and rattle her. Should be interesting to see if she can hold her own and not let him get under her skin. Of course, one might question whether the "winner" of the debate is the guy who can bully the other one the best, despite spewing idiocy while he does it. Sanford's campaign is in serious trouble and Colbert-Busch has a sizable lead (9 points last poll I saw), so she might just let him run roughshod and put his feet his mouth. The GOP/Teatroll platform is a gallows, and they love nothing more than to tapdance in clownshoes on the trap door, singing "we dare ya...we dare ya...we dare ya!!!!" She doesn't nevessarily have to pull the lever...can probably just watch as the trap door collapses under the weight of Sanford's assault on it.

    April 29, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. Sarah Alexander

    Sanford speaks about union support as if it were a dirty phrase. Colbert-Busch has great respect for union members and does work on their behalf. After all, union members all over the US represent not only the middle class, but our first responders as well. Since when are teachers, nurses, cops and firefighters inferior human beings?

    April 29, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    @ST

    Who emerged as a winner when Sanford debated the cardboard? and who was the moderator? This man is totally only good for Argentina women no more than that.
    ---------------------------
    Sanford set up the debate, moderated it and still lost to the cardboard cut-out. Just watch him in a real life debate. Colbert Busch will reduce him to a Boehner level crying fit.

    April 29, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Last week Sanford, who's seeking political redemption by running for his old House seat, debated a cardboard cutout poster of his ex-wife, Jenny .

    I thought she had a restraining order ?

    April 29, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Pander Bear

    Last week Sanford, who's seeking political redemption by running for his old House seat, debated a cardboard cutout poster of Nancy Pelosi – AND LOST

    April 29, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Arun

    This is the same guy who went after Clinton for family values. He and the rest of his party are a bunch of hypocrits!!!

    April 29, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Bill

    Sanford will soon have all the time in the world to go "hiking". A liar, a clown and unfit for public office. It' over.

    April 29, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  13. Ed1

    Glad to see the Democrats are still alive and well they seem to be the only people that a President can commit adultery and be forgiven but make no mistake a Republican can't.

    As always one sided just something to remember the night time you want to judge people look in the mirror first.

    April 29, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Siestasis

    Sanford is unstable. The man thinks with the little brain. He cheated the people of SC as Gov, he cheated on his wife then stalked her after their divorce. The man needs mental help he does not need to add to the craziness of Congress

    April 29, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  15. The Real Tom Paine

    -Ed1

    Glad to see the Democrats are still alive and well they seem to be the only people that a President can commit adultery and be forgiven but make no mistake a Republican can't.

    As always one sided just something to remember the night time you want to judge people look in the mirror first.
    ************************************
    Talk to David Vitter: he paid for it wearing a diaper, and your lot still put him back in office.

    April 29, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. PJ

    @Ed1:
    --
    Sorry, your argument doesn't fly.
    Apparently he also lied about watching football with his "home alone" son. Not true. His brothers were there.
    Apparenlty he wouldn't or didn't pay one of his son's $5,000 tuition for school.
    And, have you read the just released salatious e-mails between him and his lady love?

    You've been "judging" Democrats forever. Now the worm has turned. And Sanford in certainly a worm.

    April 29, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "Glad to see the Democrats are still alive and well they seem to be the only people that a President can commit adultery and be forgiven but make no mistake a Republican can't."

    Get it through your thick skulls and into your smooth brains: it's not the adultery, it's the hypocrisy. Sanford ran around lambasting Clinton, demanding his impeachment and talking about "family values" from atop his self-declared moral high-horse...telling everyone how to be a good krischun, demanding that 'Murika be considered a "krischun nashun" and claiming that the only path to righteousness was obedience to his definitions of morality and good behavior. He then did what he did. His adultery was forgiveable. Not so much his hypocrisy.

    April 29, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |