Mark Sanford successfully defeated a relatively unknown opponent in the South Carolina primary runoff Tuesday to determine the Republican candidate for the state’s 1st congressional district, but he has struggled to amass support within a party concerned that his baggage will turn an otherwise safe Republican race into a struggle. There’s zero chance of Mark Sanford’s race flying under the radar. His opponent? Stephen Colbert’s older sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
The former South Carolina governor who left office in disgrace after word got out that he was having an extramarital affair in Argentina needs no help attracting attention. He served as governor of South Carolina from President George W. Bush’s first term until halfway through President Barack Obama’s. He was also chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. Though the scandal may have hurt Sanford politically, he has not run away from it. After Sanford won last night’s primary, his Argentian fiancee was standing by his side.
Politico describes Sanford’s campaign as “an exercise in seeking forgiveness for his transgressions four years ago.” This is an uncomfortable campaign for a party already faced with challenging the sister of Stephen Colbert, a popular late-night comedian and satirist from South Carolina. The GOP already has a difficult time wooing female votes. Now they are tasked with convincing female voters to send another adulterer over a woman to Congress. The number of adulterers and women working in Congress are probably already too close for comfort.
Not a single member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation had endorsed Sanford prior to the race. A few of Sanford’s potential future colleagues, however, had endorsed his opponent. Republicans are not excited by the amount of money they will now have to pour into the race to win a district that Mitt Romney won by almost 20 percent.
Busch is a strong opponent in her own right. The mother of three has served on the Executive Board of Directors of Charleston Women in International Trade, College of Charleston’s Business College Alumni Advisory Board, and the board of Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. She works as Director of Business Development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute and as Director of Sales and Marketing Clemson’s Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility. Oh, and her brother works for Comedy Central.
“As a broadcast journalist I am obligated to maintain objectivity,” Colbert said on his show. “It doesn’t matter that my sister is intelligent, hardworking, compassionate and dedicated to the people of South Carolina.”
If Sanford does defeat Busch in the general election, he will be returning to a seat he held before becoming governor. Sanford represented the 1st congressional district for three terms. He maintained a strong conservative voting record during his time in Congress, including voting to impeach former president Bill Clinton following the Lewinsky scandal. Oops.
South Carolina voters will have their chance to pick between Sanford and Colbert’s sister — ahem, Elizabeth Colbert Busch — on May 7.