Sanford affair front and center in closing week of high-profile race
April 30th, 2013
11:47 AM ET
1 year ago

Sanford affair front and center in closing week of high-profile race

(CNN) – Call it a one, two punch.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch brought up former South Carolina's Gov. Mark Sanford's affair in their one and only debate Monday night in the race to fill a vacant congressional seat in the Palmetto State.

Hours later, an independent group supporting the Democratic candidate touted that they're going up with a TV commercial highlighting a Republican voter who says she can no longer trust Sanford because of the affair that ended his marriage and sidetracked his political career. Meanwhile, Sanford is touting the endorsement of a high profile Republican.

House Majority PAC announced Tuesday that their spot will run throughout South Carolina's 1st Congressional District through next Tuesday's special election.

"I used to be for Mark Sanford, but not any more. He skipped town to be with his mistress on Fathers Day. Sanford even asked his wife for permission to have the affair," said Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Republican voter Jennifer Stark, in the spot.

"He wasted our taxpayer dollars on himself. I really was disappointed when I heard the extent to which he betrayed our trust. I was mortified, angry, embarrassed, betrayed. I'm a Republican but Mark Sanford just doesn't share our values."

Joel Sawyer, Sanford campaign spokesman, responded Tuesday telling CNN: "This new ad is still more evidence that pro-Pelosi forces are heavily invested in getting another reliable vote for her agenda in Congress. We believe voters of the First District will see through attempts to buy this race on Nancy Pelosi's behalf," Sawyer said.

The ad is House Majority PAC's third to attack Sanford, who's been open about his affair on the campaign trail, making it the subject of his first campaign commercial, and who's seeking political redemption by seeking the House seat he held for three terms before running for governor.

In Monday night's tense debate, Colbert Busch, an official with Clemson University's wind turbine drive testing facility who's best known nationally as the sister of satirist and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, took a swipe at Sanford over his secret 2009 trip to see his mistress in Argentina.

"When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," she said sternly, looking directly at her opponent on stage.

Her supporters in the crowd burst into applause and cheers. When one of the moderators motioned for Sanford to respond, an awkward exchanged ensued.

"I couldn't hear what she said," Sanford said, as Colbert Busch and some in the crowd began to laugh. "Repeat it. I didn't hear. I'm sorry."

"Answer the question," she replied.

"What was the question?" Sanford said, smiling. He went on to talk about the forced federal spending cuts known in Washington as the sequester.

Sanford was in his second term as governor in 2009 when he briefly disappeared from public view for several days. At the time his staff claimed 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. 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 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.

In the debate, Sanford repeatedly brought up money that national Democratic groups have poured into the South Carolina race recently. As he's done in the last week on the campaign trail, Sanford said a vote for Colbert Busch would also be a vote for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. To make that point, Sanford debated a cardboard cutout of Pelosi last week.

"What it says is, whose voice do you carry when you go to Washington, D.C.?" he said Monday, pointing to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that national Democratic groups have spent on the race.

But Colbert Busch sought to distance herself from Washington.

"I want to be very clear, Mark, nobody tells me what to do, except the people in South Carolina's 1st District," she said. "I am a fiscally conservative, independent tough businesswoman."

Trying to make her case, she criticized the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's health care reform that was passed by Congressional Democrats in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court last year. Colbert Busch argued there are points in the bill that are "extremely problematic," saying it's expensive, slashes Medicare benefits and costs jobs. But then she went on to highlight multiple provisions in the law that she favors.

Sanford Tuesday announced the support of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a leading conservative voice in the Senate and a probable 2016 GOP presidential candidate. CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby was first to report news of the endorsement Monday evening.

"Mark has proven during his time in office that watching out for taxpayers and holding the line on spending are his top priorities. What we absolutely cannot afford is someone like his opponent, who will be yet another vote for a return to the Pelosi speakership, for disastrous programs like Obamacare, and for more spending and debt. I am pleased to endorse Mark and stand with him in this race," said Paul, in a statement put out by the Sanford campaign.

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: Mark Sanford • South Carolina
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. sonny chapman

    Is Nancy Pelosi from S. Carolina ? Is Argentina a county in S. Carolina ? Why isn't the fiance` in the pick ?

    April 30, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Sanford Tuesday announced the support of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a leading conservative voice in the Senate and a probable 2016 GOP

    "Mark has proven during his time in office that watching out for taxpayers and holding the line on spending are his top priorities.

    Paul / Sanford
    Aqua Buddha Buddy's 2016 .

    April 30, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Personally, I love [R] candiates running around with political grenades in their bellies. Just ask Newt how well that works out.

    Look, if these people were smart, they wouldn't be [R]s in the first place. So, could we really expect anything different from these [R] knuckleheads? The stupider they are, the more the rightwing base will vote for them....its a called a selection effect. And this selection effect has been in force in the [R] party for nearly 20 years now....and look at the results....the current gaggle of elected [R] politicians are the biggest bunch of do-nothing, whiney, senseless little drama queens that has EVER graced Capitol Hill and the govenor's mansions. And they still don't know why they lost in 2012....

    April 30, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    "He wasted our taxpayer dollars on himself. I really was disappointed when I heard the extent to which he betrayed our trust. I was mortified, angry, embarrassed, betrayed. I'm a Republican but Mark Sanford just doesn't share our values."
    -------------------------------------------------
    I'm not a republican, but I couldn't have stated it better myself. The affair is fair game. Senor Sanford, adios!

    April 30, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    "Mark has proven during his time in office that watching out for taxpayers"
    -------------------------------------------------–
    Hold it right there Rand!! Watching out for taxpayers? By using their money to fund his lustful affair? Ha! You got to love those family value conservatives.

    April 30, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Sanford comparing himself to Bill Clinton is a non sequitor. While Clinton stayed in office, he has not tried to run for elected office again. While Clinton had an affair, he didn't go AWOL from the White House to go galavanting in South America.

    April 30, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. ja

    sanford has no morals, the audacity, but them the electorate, in america has been dumbed down, the sob should havwe lost the gop nomination by a landslide

    April 30, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oops. Guess I can't call the TeaParty a bunch of societal misfits.

    Oops. Guess I can't call Mark Sanford unemployable in the private sector.

    Oops. Guess I can't link Mark Sandford to the TeaParty.

    Oops. Guess I can't link Mark Sandford to Congress and the congressional inefficiency I've seen played out for 12 years now.

    April 30, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    I would argue that Sanford is another "obstructionist" vote with Boehner.....Lied to the People of South Carolina about his soul mate....if indeed, he should have been upfront from the beginning...Fool me on, shame on me....can't fool me again (W Bush). Sanford and South Carolina a marriage for the ages.....lol

    April 30, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. Pander Bear

    Sanford is so desperate he's trying to Pelosi Bomb the electorate. Tool.

    April 30, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    If Sanford had any honor, he would have resigned as Governer after he admitted his deceptions. Especially after going AWOL for days on end. That is inexcusable, no matter how much he professes his guilt. Some dirty deeds are capable of ending political careers, just as some crimes are punishable by life in prison. Going AWOL from your elected office to visit a mistress in another country thousands of miles away at taxpayer expense is on that level.

    April 30, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. Independent Thinker

    I live in South Carolina and am appalled we would even contemplate re-electing this man. We have values, respect honesty and live by the bible. This man has done nothing but bring shame to our state. If we elect him, we will be ridiculed by the whole country. Too often the South is laughed at because, we are too slow, too simple. Well I hate to say it, but we re-elect Mark Sanford and we deserve everything that falls from the sky.

    April 30, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Pete

    Hey Busch going after Sanford is common campaign lingo and she hit the adulterer with that statement where it counts in his nether regions where he supposidly does most of his thinking it was told..Just the little man thinking for the big man if you get my drift,so to speak politely!!

    April 30, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Marie MD

    Note, to Jennifer stark. This cheater represents everything that IS your party as far as values. They run and live their sainthood lives until they get caught for doing what they say is so wrong with society.
    Pelosi is NOT even a senator!!! A cardboard cutout? Stalking? Having affairs and leaving his sons on father's day weekend no less. His wife told him she was okay with the affair?
    Colbert bush doesn't sound that great either but, it IS south Carolina. We don't expect much from that state!

    April 30, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. BCW

    Sanford has NO shame just like many GOPs. His career is politic is OVER. Move-on already?!

    April 30, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |