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Voters in South Carolina prepare for special primary election

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March 18, 2013

South Carolina

By Jennifer Springer

Charleston, South Carolina: Eighteen candidates, including 2 Democratic candidates and 16 Republican candidates, will face off in primary elections tomorrow for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District seat. Voters will select which candidates advance as nominees to fill the seat left empty following the appointment of Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate.[1] Polls will be open from 7am to 7pm.[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]

If no candidate in either primary gains 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between the two top candidates will take place on April 2, 2013.[4] The general election is scheduled for May 7, 2013.[5]

Among the Republican candidates are former Gov. Mark Sanford and Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner.[1] On the Democratic ticket only two candidates will run in the primary: Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, sister to The Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert, and Ben Frasier, the 2010 Democratic nominee for the 1st District.[6]

Sanford is seen as the front runner due to name recognition and the fact that he began his campaign with $120,000 in an old campaign account. This coupled with his ability to fundraise quickly is assumed to give him a leg up on the field. This is also his former seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that he held for three terms, prior to being elected governor.[7]

Sanford raised $334,397 over January and February in his bid for the seat.[8] David Koch, who launched the conservative outside group Americans for Prosperity, gave $2,500 to Sanford’s House campaign. So did Foster Friess, a major backer of Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign.[8] In addition to some leftover primary cash from his 1998 House run, Sanford had approximately $364,714 on hand going into March 2013.[8]

Despite Sanford outraising his primary rivals, his challengers also raised significant funds. Teddy Turner raised $376,433 — including $245,000 of his own cash — and had $99,178 on hand at the beginning of March 2013.[8] State senator Larry Grooms (R) raised $223,815 and loaned himself $100,000, leaving him with $208,493 on hand.[8] State Rep. Chip Limehouse raised $140,115 and loaned himself $400,000, with reportedly $42,657 on hand.[8] Former state senator John Kuhn raised only $50,103 but lent his campaign $500,000. Beginning March 2013 he had $131,295 on hand.[8]

Democratic front-runner Elizabeth Colbert-Busch raised almost as much as Sanford at $309,559 and has $208,630 on hand at the beginning of March 2013.[8][9]

She has not received any money directly from her brother, but she has received $2,600 from Evelyn McGee and $2,500 from Evelyn Colbert. Stephen Colbert’s wife is Evelyn McGee Colbert. Trevor Potter, the Republican lawyer hired to help Stephen Colbert start a super PAC, also contributed $500 to Colbert-Busch's campaign.[8] Colbert-Busch also reportedly received a $5,000 donation from the leadership PAC of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D), who also hosted a D.C. fundraiser for her in early March.[10]

The general election race is 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]

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