Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford took another step forward in his political comeback on Tuesday, trouncing his rival in a GOP congressional primary runoff. Now he'll face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May special election to fill the seat Sanford held before becoming governor. The district, which includes Charleston, traditionally votes Republican — GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney took 59 percent of the vote there in November. But Republicans, especially Christian conservatives, are worried that the memory of the extramarital affair that destroyed Sanford's marriage and derailed his political career could hand Democrats what should be a safe Republican seat.
And Republicans have plenty of reasons to be concerned, with polls showing a tight race. National Republicans are so worried, says Alex Isenstadt at Politico, that they're pouring cash into the race to keep Colbert Busch from pulling the seat out from under them. And "the affair that sent Sanford's political career off the rails only begins to describe his baggage."
Sanford's liabilities could force outside groups to spend precious resources doing his dirty work — all to salvage a district that Mitt Romney won by 18 points. [Politico]
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
But Sanford's lopsided primary win was pretty convincing. And some wonder if, in the internet age, his four-year-old scandal is already ancient history in the eyes of voters. After all, points out David Weigel at Slate, Maria Belen Chapur — who was Sanford's mistress when he visited her after lying to his staff and saying he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail — is now his fiance.
The consensus is that Colbert Busch has a solid chance to pick up the seat, but it's not just because of Sanford's baggage. His affair didn't come up in the primary campaign. Colbert Busch did react to Sanford's Tuesday victory by saying he "simply has the wrong values for our community," although the example she cited was his opposition to "commonsense measures like the Violence Against Women Act." Colbert Busch, however, has other things going for her, says Cameron Joseph at The Hill. Special elections are "notoriously unpredictable, low-turnout affairs," and the Democrat has done a good job so far winning over the people she hopes to represent.
While most in the national audience know Colbert Busch best for her brother, she's long been involved in the Charleston community and polls show she's well-known and fairly well-liked. [The Hill]
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.