MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Former Gov. Mark Sanford campaigned with GOP leaders while Elizabeth Colbert Busch appealed for last-minute votes as her blue and white bus rolled though South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District on Monday, the tumultuous campaigning near a close.
Sanford, a Republican, and businesswoman Colbert Busch, a Democrat and sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, face each other today in a special election for the seat. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt also is on the ballot.
Sanford is seeking political redemption after a scandal erupted in 2009 involving the disclosure that he had an Argentine mistress during his second term as governor.
Now divorced, he is trying to rebound from the scandal that sidelined his political career.
Colbert Busch, who over the weekend won the backing of the district’s largest newspaper, The Post and Courier of Charleston, and spent a fourth day riding through the district in a campaign bus.
“We know that every single vote counts,” she said after mingling with supporters at a barbershop in Ladson.
Colbert Busch, 58, appeared with U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., on Sunday.
On Monday, Sanford campaigned with former Gov. Jim Edwards, the state’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction. He later planned stops with state GOP Chairman Chad Connelly.
“This is a battle for this country, not just a congressional race. Obama controls the Senate and now he’s fighting to control the House,” Edwards said.
The district, reconfigured from the one Sanford served for three terms in the 1990s, should be reliably Republican on paper.
But Sanford is trying to make a comeback after famously disappearing for five days in 2009, when he was a married, two-term governor. He told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian trail when he was in Argentina seeing his mistress, a woman to whom he has since become engaged.
Sanford ended up paying the largest ethics fine in state history, $70,000, for using public money for private travel.
While House Democrats and outside groups hammered at the behavior during the campaign, although Colbert Busch generally stayed away.
She was asked Monday whether she should have hit the issue harder and earlier.
“Our campaign is positive and optimistic. That’s the message we want,” she said. “I have no regrets.”
Colbert Busch stressed the importance of creating jobs and improving education. Sanford, as he has since his political career began two decades ago, constantly stressed the importance of getting the nation’s financial house in order.
Colbert Busch’s famous brother has helped his sister attending fundraisers. Federal campaign spending reports show Colbert Busch raised more money during the campaign, although with the money Sanford had on hand from previous campaigns, both had about the same amount to spend.
Gibbs Knotts, the chairman of the Political Science Department at the College of Charleston, said the key for both campaigns is getting their voters to the polls Tuesday in what’s expected to be a light turnout.
A Colbert Busch victory would indicate a referendum on Sanford’s past. Sanford winning, he said, would indicate voters are more concerned about what’s happening in Washington.
During the campaign, news surfaced that Sanford’s ex-wife Jenny had filed a court complaint alleging he was in her house without permission in violation of their divorce decree. Sanford must appear in court Thursday.
Sanford said he tried to get in touch with his ex-wife and was in the house so his youngest son would not have to watch the Super Bowl alone.
“At the end of the day water reaches its own level,” he said Monday, saying voters understand his explanation is different from the ex-wife’s complaint suggesting he was somehow sneaking around the house with a cellphone for a flashlight.