Special election battle for South Carolina seat nearing an end

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May 6, 2013

South Carolina

By Jennifer Springer

Charleston, South Carolina: Democrats have their best chance in more than three decades to win a South Carolina congressional seat in the special election tomorrow.[1] The election is being held to fill the seat left empty following the appointment of Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate.[2] Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to replace Jim DeMint (R). DeMint decided to resign and head the conservative Heritage Foundation beginning in January 2013.[3] Polls in the special election will be open from 7am to 7pm.[4]

Former Republican Gov. Mark Sanford faces Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert-Busch and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt.[1] National Democrats are backing her campaign in hopes of turning the heavily Republican district into a victory for them.[1] Outside Democratic groups have put close to $1 million behind Colbert-Busch, the sister of Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert.[5]

Sanford was able to secure the largest percentage of the votes in the Republican primary on March 19th, slightly more than a third of the overall vote total among the Republican candidates, but was unable to gain the majority required in order to win the nomination.[6] Republican candidates Curtis Bostic had about 13.32 percent and Larry Grooms earned about 12.40 percent.[7] Sanford then defeated Curtis Bostic, an ally of former incumbent Tim Scott (R), 56.58 percent to 43.42 percent, in the Republican runoff primary on April 2nd.[8][9][10]

The general election race has been expected to be tough for any Democrat. The Charleston-area seat has been a Republican stronghold for decades, and continues to lean Republican.[11][12] The last Democratic candidate elected was Mendel Jackson Davis in 1978.[13] However, voters say there is some excitement around the Democrats having a real shot to win this seat.[1]

NAACP chapter President David Cakley commented on Colbert-Busch's chances, saying "It's going to be tough for her, but if she plays her cards correctly, and just knowing that she has the support of her base, and hopefully she can conduct herself in the moderate manner ... I think that Mrs. Colbert Busch has an opportunity."[1]

National Republicans pulled out of the race after Sanford's ex-wife, Jenny, accused him of trespassing at her home.[1][14] On April 17th Republicans said they were caught off guard by news of Jenny Sanford’s complaint and worried other damaging revelations from Sanford’s personal life that they aren’t aware of could come out in the coming weeks.[15]

The National Republican Congressional Committee's (NRCC) decision came as national Democrats began pouring money into the race.[15] On April 16th, House Majority PAC, a Democratic outside group, started running an ad accusing Sanford of spending taxpayer money to fund his trips to Argentina.[15] An official with the group said it was spending in the mid six-figures to run the ad.[16]

After the NRCC's announcement, other outside groups announced that they would also be pulling out support for Sanford.[17] The Club for Growth and Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to John Boehner (R), also announced they would no longer be lending support to Sanford's campaign.[17] After the controversy surrounding Sanford began to heat up, many speculated that Colbert-Busch stood a real chance of upsetting Sanford.[14]

In recent months, she has raised more than twice as much as Sanford.[5] Sanford raised just $453,343 from the end of February through the middle of April, slightly more than half the $874,065 that Colbert-Busch raised for the same period.[18] Sanford's total included funds reported in March for the period before the runoff began. This money disparity put Sanford at a disadvantage, especially since outside groups did not come to help him out.[18] A week from the general election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured another $215,000 into the race, while House Majority PAC contributed an additional $60,000, as well as $19,000 on mailers.[19][20]

Just when most began to consider the race over, Sanford picked up endorsements the week before the general election from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and from the state's U.S. senators, Tim Scott (R) and Lindsey Graham (R).[21][22][23][24]He also managed to pick up endorsements from national Republicans Ron Paul and his son Rand Paul.[25][26]

Democrats would need to pick up 17 seats next year to take control of the U.S. House from Republicans.[1] According to some political analysts, a win for the 1st District seat won't change the balance, but it would count as a symbolic victory for whichever party prevails.[1] "The Democrats need this seat to demonstrate that they can still win seats in the South, even though they haven't in quite some time. And for the Republicans, maintaining control sends the message that they still are the party of the South," according to Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.[1]

If Colbert-Busch wins, many believe that she instantly will become one of the most endangered Democrats in the 2014 elections.[14][18] If Sanford wins, it could mark a career turnaround.[18] Late-deciding voters are likely to make the difference in what is expected to be a low-turnout election.[5]

See also

Ballotpedia News


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 NPR "Democrats Have High Hopes Of Defeating Sanford In S.C." accessed May 5, 2013
  2. The Republic, "Sanford's hopes of a political comeback rest with voters this week" accessed March 17, 2013
  3. The Washington Post, "Gov. Nikki Haley to fill DeMint’s seat by appointment," December 6, 2012
  4. SC Votes, "South Carolina Voting Information Page" accessed March 18, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 LA Times, "In South Carolina, an ex-governor's quest continues" accessed May 5, 2013
  6. SC Votes, "April 19, 2013 Primary Special Election" accessed April 19, 2013
  7. Reuters, "Sanford advances in South Carolina primary for House seat: TV" accessed April 19, 2013
  8. SC Votes, "South Carolina's 1st Congressional District Republican Runoff Primary Election" accessed April 2, 2013
  9. Open Secrets, "Sanford Holds Financial Lead In South Carolina Runoff Race" accessed March 30, 2013
  10. NCSL "Primary Runoffs" accessed April 17, 2013
  11. MSNBC "Elizabeth Colbert Busch wedged in crowded special election race" accessed March 17, 2013
  12. Salon.com, "Ted Turner’s son vying in SC congressional primary," January 23, 2013
  13. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Davis, Medel Jackson, (1942-2007)," accessed January 28, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Washington Post, "House Republicans had to bail on Mark Sanford. But they may get the last laugh." accessed April 18, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Politico, "Republicans pull plug on Mark Sanford" accessed April 18, 2013
  16. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named issue
  17. 17.0 17.1 Roll Call, "Mark Sanford Deserted by Entire GOP Cavalry" accessed April 19, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Huffington Post, "Mark Sanford Fundraising Lags Behind Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch" accessed April 26, 2013
  19. FEC "DECC filings" accessed April 30, 2013
  20. FEC "House Majority PAC "Accessed April 30, 2013
  21. Washington Post, "Nikki Haley to appear at Mark Sanford fundraiser" accessed April 30, 2013
  22. Island Packet, "Sanford, Haley speak on phone following his win in GOP runoff" accessed April 30, 2013
  23. Post and Courier, "Tim Scott says Mark Sanford “merits support” in 1st District race" accessed May 2, 2013
  24. Washington Post, "Tim Scott Endorses Mark Sanford" accessed May 2, 2013
  25. Washington Post, "Ron Paul Endorses Mark Sanford" accessed April 26, 2013
  26. The Hill, "Rand Paul endorses Mark Sanford" accessed April 30, 2013