Monday, January 21, 2013

Are South Carolina Voters Ready To Re-embrace Wayward Son Mark Sanford-- Or Will They Pick Colbert's Sister?


29.4% of South Carolina's population is African-American. As many of those voters as possible have been crammed into South Carolina's 6th congressional district, which is 56.7% African American. Obama, while losing the state with 44% of the vote, won the 6th with 70.9%, even more than the 70.1% he had won under the same lines in 2008. Democrat Jim Clyburn was reelected with no Republican opponent. But while the 6th was the only one of South Carolina's seven districts Obama won, he did win 23 of 46 counties, exactly half! In fact, Obama won Charleston County 81,027 to 77,248 and most of that county is in the 1st CD, the one Tim Scott just gave up for DeMint's old Senate seat. Scott had just won reelection in the 1st with 62% of the vote and Obama only managed 40.2% there. So is it a hopeless exercise for a Democrat to run for the seat in the May 7th special election? It may not be as hopeless as it looks.

First there's a March 19 primary. We'll get back to the Democrats in a moment, The Republican primary is the key to this contest. Former state Treasurer and convicted cocaine dealer Tom Ravenel has taken himself out of the competition but that doesn't mean South Carolina Republicans don't have someone that defies the imagination running. Aside from state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) and state Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston), there's Ted Turner's son Teddy, and controversial Charleston County school board member (and failed candidate for state Superintendent of Education) Elizabeth Moffly and, presumed front-runner Mark Sanford, South Carolina's disgraced former governor who was censured for using taxpayer funds to carry on an affair with a woman in Argentina. The state legislature's Ethics Committee charged him with 37 violations and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted (102-11) to censure him. What a perfect nominee for the GOP!

CREW voted him one of America's worst governors pointing out that he had
Abused his office for his personal benefit and the benefit of his friends
Violated campaign finance laws by failing to report in-kind contributions and improperly converting campaign funds for personal use
Subordinated his responsibilities to his pursuit of an extramarital affair
Endangered his state’s economy by threatening to refuse stimulus funds
Sanford, working as a paid political contributor for Fox News and now officially engaged to his Argentine mistress, happens to have been the congressman from SC-01 from 1995- 2001, where he is best remembered for shrilly calling President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky "reprehensible" and voting to impeach him. A KKK sympathizer and notorious and rabidly virulent racist, Sanford was one of only 11 congressmen to oppose the bill by Rob Portman (R-OH) to preserve historic sites related to the Underground Railroad (H.R. 2919).

So, if, as looks likely, Sanford wins the Republican nomination, are there enough voters in the district too embarrassed and scandalized to have someone like that represent them in Congress? It could be close. But it's worthwhile for a Democrat to try. And last week wealthy Democratic businessman Martin Skelly, promising to put a quarter million dollars of his own into the race, filed to run. Last year's candidate against Tim Scott, Bobbie Rose, also says she may run. But the big news, of course, is that Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch is running. 58, she's the business development director at Clemson’s Charleston wind-turbine facility.
“She does have a famous brother, but she has a great story to tell,” said Bill Romjue, Colbert-Busch’s campaign manager. “She’s a very successful woman.”

...Colbert-Busch weighed a Democratic bid for Congress in 2010 but decided not to run when Tim Scott, a popular African-American Republican legislator who had been Charleston County Commission chairman, entered the race.
She's voted in the GOP primaries in 2000, 20002, 2004 and 2010 and hasn't voted in any Democratic primaries since 2000, although no one seems to care at all. Can she win? With Sanford in the race, the whole process is likely to degenerate into a circus and if Stephen Colbert jumps in on behalf of his sister... he's pretty good at circuses. The district is also significantly changed from when Sanford represented it, the entire northern third including Georgetown, Myrtle Beach and Horry County now part of the 7th CD, replaced by a swathe of coast almost as far south as Savannah, Georgia including Beaufort, Port Royal and Hilton Head Island.

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