Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

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Elizabeth Colbert-Busch
Elizabeth colbert busch.jpg
Candidate for
U.S. House, South Carolina, District 1
Bachelor'sCollege of Charleston
ProfessionSales and Marketing Professional
Campaign website
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch is the 2013 Democratic nominee seeking election to the U.S. House representing the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina.[1][2]

Colbert-Busch is the older sister of The Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert.[3]

She is challenging former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) for the open seat. The special election being held to fill the seat left empty following the appointment of Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate.[4][5] Colbert-Busch easily defeated challenger Ben Frasier in the Democratic special primary election on March 19, 2013.[6]

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.[7][8] The last Democratic candidate elected was Mendel Jackson Davis in 1978.[9]

Early indicators suggest the race between Colbert-Busch and Sanford will be competitive.[10][11] Many believe that Sanford's forces will have a hard time overwhelming Colbert-Busch in the competition for dollars, as her brother, Stephen Colbert, is going all out to raise cash for his older sister.[12]

In early April 2013 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and her PAC Off the Sidelines, endorsed Colbert-Busch for the May 7 general special election.[13]

The race is included in a Washington Post list of the Top 5 races of 2013.[14]


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Cobert-Busch comes from a large family and is the sister of The Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert. She serves as the director of business development at Clemson University Restoration Institute.[15][16] Prior to this, she was director of sales and marketing for the Orient Overseas Container Line.[1][3][17]


  • Bachelor's degree, College of Charleson[3]


Political positions

Colbert-Busch's primary interest for South Carolina is business development and jobs creation, as reflected in her current work at Clemson University.[18] In response to a question tweeted to her in early April 2013, she responded as being both pro-choice and in favor of marriage equality.[19]



See also: South Carolina's 1st congressional district special election, 2013

Colbert-Busch is running for the U.S. House representing the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina. The election is being held to replace Tim Scott, who was appointed to fill Jim DeMint's vacant seat in the U.S. Senate.[20] Colbert-Busch ran in the Democratic primary and defeated Ben Frasier on March 19, 2013.[6][2] Martin Skelly originally filed to run but withdrew in early February.[21] The general election takes place on May 7, 2013.[22]

Former Governor Mark Sanford is seen as the front runner due to name recognition and the fact that he has $120,000 in an old campaign account. This coupled with his ability to fundraise quickly gives 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.[23]

The district leans Republican.[24] The last Democratic candidate elected was Mendel Jackson Davis in 1978.[25]


After Martin Skelly withdrew from the race, he threw his support behind Colbert-Busch, saying "she inspires both the party faithful and the political center that we need to generate consensus and end gridlock in Congress."[26]

The AFL-CIO endorsed her on February 14, 2013, stating "“Elizabeth’s business experience with the maritime industry and Clemson University helps her understand that when labor and management work together everyone wins." Charleston Mayor Joe Riley endorsed her the same day, describing her as a “tireless worker, a self-made woman in a field where there were few women."[27]

U.S. Representative James Clyburn endorsed her on February 19, 2013, citing "something unique about Elizabeth’s experiences…She has life experiences to take us to success in the general election."[28]

Following the GOP runoff primary on April 2, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand threw her support behind Colbert-Busch, which included the support of her PAC Off the Sidelines.[13] In a statement announcing the endorsement Gillibrand said, "Elizabeth has been off the sidelines and involved in her community for years, having founded the Executive Board of Directors of Charleston Women in International Trade as well as serving as Chair of the Maritime Association Port of Charleston, among other positions. I'm thrilled that this year, Elizabeth has decided to add Congressional candidate to her list of achievements, and with your help, we'll be sending her to Washington, D.C. very soon."[13]


General election

Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC unveiled their first commercial entitled "Air Sanford."

Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch's 1st general election television ad, "Independent"

Democrat Colbert-Busch aired her first general election television advertisement on April 9th 2013, kicking off the imminent airwaves war against former Republican Gov. Mark Sanford.[29]

In the ad, Colbert-Busch speaks directly to camera in the 30-second spot, describing herself as a “single mom with three young children.”[29] She never mentions Sanford in the advertisement, which appears to target female voters.[29] The ad buy cost an estimated for $76,000 and the spot will run from April 9 to April 15 in the Charleston and Savannah broadcast markets, as well as on cable in Charleston.[29]

The Democratic super PAC, House Majority PAC, took to the airwaves with a TV ad attacking former governor Sanford (R) in the special election, marking the first time an outside group has gone on the air in the race between Sanford and Democrat Colbert-Busch.[30] The group is expected to spend between $400,000 and $600,000 in the election.[31]

Sanford released his first television ad since becoming the Republican nominee, going after Colbert-Busch for her ties to unions.[32] The ad is a departure for Sanford, whose past television spots have been positive and biographical, focused largely on his record as governor and his comeback from the 2009 scandal that nearly cost him his job.[32] According to some reports, the campaign spent just under $100,000 to run the ad on cable and broadcast television in the Charleston and Savannah markets.[32] The South Carolina Republican Party put money into Sanford's campaign for the ad.[32]

House Majority PAC's final ad, "Trust"

Sanford's ad released April 23, 2013, "Voices"

On April 23, 2013 Sanford released a new ad claiming Democrat Colbert-Busch is "fighting for big labor" after accepting union donations.[33] Colbert-Busch, who accepted $5,000 in donations from the Machinists Union and has been endorsed by the state chapter of the labor union AFL-CIO, has said she will make job creation a top priority if elected.[33]

The Machinist Union defended Colbert-Busch, even releasing a statement stating that ads and comments to the press by Sanford "provided incorrect information about labor unions, specifically regarding the Boeing facility in North Charleston" and requested that Sanford pull the ads.[33]

According to media reports by multiple news outlets, the Machinists Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in 2011, claiming Boeing's plans to build a plant in right-to-work South Carolina were in retaliation for labor activities at its Washington state plant.[33] The complaint was based on public comments made by a Boeing executive.[33] Ultimately, the high-profile complaint was dropped. The Washington plant continues to operate and a new North Charleston plan was built and is scheduled for expansion that both Sanford and Colbert-Busch have applauded.[33]

The House Majority PAC released its third and final ad of the special election, "Trust".[34] It features lifelong Republican woman – who in the past supported Mark Sanford – describing how deeply Sanford betrayed her trust.[34] “Trust” will air as part of House Majority PAC’s previously announced six-figure buy in this race.[34]

Andy Stone, Communications Director of House Majority PAC released the statement, “Mark Sanford’s record of betrayal to South Carolinians is more than a mile long. The bottom line is that after abandoning the Palmetto State, using taxpayer funds to travel in luxury and for personal purposes and even trespassing in his ex-wife’s home, South Carolina deserves better than Mark Sanford.”[34]

Primary election

Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch's 2nd television ad, "Elizabeth Colbert Busch Knows Jobs"

Republican Mark Sanford's 3rd television ad, "Difference"

In early March 2013, Mark Sanford released his third television ad in his campaign for the House seat.[35] In all, Sanford's campaign spent approximately $170,000 on three TV ads prior to the primary election, according to spokesman Joel Sawyer.[35] In the new ad, Sanford called himself "financially the most conservative governor in America and the "first governor to turn down stimulus money," an effort that failed when South Carolina's Supreme Court ruled the state must accept the $700 million.[35]

On March 15, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch released her second television ad.[36] The ad focused on her connection to the state and experience creating jobs.[36] She previously launched her first ad on the same day as Sanford's release of his third television ad.[35]


According to a poll released March 26, 2013 by Public Policy Polling, Colbert-Busch and Mark Sanford were neck and neck prior to the runoff primary election.[37] President of Public Policy Polling, Dean Debnam, described the race saying, “The South Carolina special looks like a toss up. The big question is how much Republicans will unify around their nominee after the runoff next week.”[37]

Following the runoff primary and heading into the general election, President of Public Policy Polling, Dean Debnam stated “Elizabeth Colbert Busch is now looking like a clear favorite in the special election. The only question is whether an extremely unpopular Sanford can find some way to make voters like her even less than him in the next two weeks.”[38]

South Carolina's 1st Congressional District special election
Poll Elizabeth Colbert-Busch Mark SanfordEugene PlattMargin of ErrorSample Size
May 6, 2013
Public Policy Polling
April 19-21, 2013
Public Policy Polling
March 22-24, 2013
AVERAGES 47.67% 44% 3.33% +/-3.8 873.67
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org

Campaign donors


Colbert-Busch raised almost as much as likely Republican nominee Mark Sanford at $309,559 and has $208,630 on hand.[39]

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 Washington lawyer hired to help Stephen Colbert start a super PAC, also contributed $500 to Colbert-Busch's campaign.[39] 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.[35]

Recent news

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External links

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Politico "No joke: Stephen Colbert’s sister plans House bid," January 18, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 South Carolina Radio Network "List of 19 candidates running for District 1 seat," January 28, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 West Ashley Patch "A Closer Look at Elizabeth Colbert-Busch," January 18, 2013
  4. The Republic "Sanford's hopes of a political comeback rest with voters this week" Accessed March 17, 2013
  5. The Washington Post, "Gov. Nikki Haley to fill DeMint’s seat by appointment," December 6, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 SC Votes "March 19 Special Primary Election" Accessed March 19, 2013
  7. MSNBC "Elizabeth Colbert Busch wedged in crowded special election race" Accessed March 17, 2013
  8. Salon.com "Ted Turner’s son vying in SC congressional primary," January 23, 2013
  9. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress "Davis, Medel Jackson, (1942-2007)," accessed January 28, 2013
  10. Politico "Mark Sanford advances to runoff" Accessed April 19, 2013
  11. Washington Post "Mark Sanford wins Republican runoff in South Carolina" Accessed April 2, 2013
  12. Politico "GOP frets Mark Sanford could blow it" Accessed April 4, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Daily Kos "Let's Send Elizabeth Colbert Busch to Congress" Accessed April 4, 2013
  14. Washingotn Post "The Fix's Top 5 Races of 2013" Accessed March 18, 2013
  15. Clemson University Restoration Institute
  16. [http://www.clemson.edu/media-relations/article.php?article_id=4128 "Offshore wind industry has huge potential for Southeast, Clemson official tells conference", Clemson University, March 8, 2012
  17. MSNBC "Elizabeth Colbert Busch Wedged in Crowded Special Election Race" Accessed March 17, 2013
  18. "Southeast wind-energy conference to feature Clemson’s Restoration Institute", Clemson University, March 1, 2012
  19. Twitter "Elizabeth Colbert-Busch" Accessed April 4, 2013
  20. Washington Post "Scott's departure for Senate will trigger third special House election in 2013," December 17, 2012
  21. Roll Call "South Carolina Skelly exits Special Election" Accessed March 11, 2013
  22. South Carolina Republican Party Website "1st Congressional Special Election details set," accessed January 3, 2013
  23. Roll Call "Sanford Likely Front-Runner in S.C. Special Election," January 3, 2013
  24. Salon.com "Ted Turner’s son vying in SC congressional primary," January 23, 2013
  25. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress "Davis, Medel Jackson, (1942-2007)," accessed January 28, 2013
  26. Roll Call "South Carolina: Skelly Exits Special Election; Colbert’s Sister Now Top Democratic Contender," February 11, 2013
  27. "", North Charleston Patch, February 13, 2013
  28. Congressman James Clyburn Endorses Elizabeth Colbert Busch, The Charleston Chronicle, February 19, 2013
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Roll Call "South Carolina: Colbert Busch Targets Female Voters in First Spot Against Sanford" Accessed April 20, 2013
  30. Washington Post "Democratic super PAC hits Sanford as he goes after Colbert Busch" Accessed April 18, 2013
  31. Washington Post "Democratic super PAC hits Sanford as he goes after Colbert Busch" Accessed April 18, 2013
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 National Journal "Mark Sanford Attacks Elizabeth Colbert Busch in First General Election Ad" Accessed April 18, 2013
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 33.4 33.5 Island Packet "Sanford ad attacks Colbert Busch for union support; union says Sanford making false claims" Accessed April 25, 2013
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 The House Majority PAC "New House Majority PAC Spot In SC-01 Features Local Republican Woman On Why She Can’t Trust Mark Sanford" Accessed April 30, 2013
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 Sunlight Foudnation "Mark Sanford Drops 3rd ad in Special Election" Accessed March 17, 2013
  36. 36.0 36.1 National Journal "Colbert Busch Releases Second TV Ad" Accessed March 17, 2013
  37. 37.0 37.1 Public Policy Polling "PPP release SC 3/26" Accessed March 27, 2013
  38. Public Policy Polling "PPP Press Release South Carolina Special Election 4/22" Accessed April 25, 2013
  39. 39.0 39.1 Washington Post "Koch brother donates to Mark Sanford" Accessed March 11, 2013