Tonight starting at 7:00 pm (Eastern) on C-SPAN is the one and only debate scheduled between Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Mark Sanford in the special election in SC-01 to fill Tim Scott's congressional seat. When Jim Demint left the United States Senate to pursue the dollars at the Heritage Foundation, the South Carolina Governor appointed Congressman Tim Scott to finish Demint's term. That left this vacancy in the First Congressional District.
The Republican is ex-Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford, who's campaign for the position started out really well for a disgraced politician. First, he won a crowded GOP primary without dropping the ball once. Then, in the early minutes of the general campaign, his staff caught Colbert Busch's campaign in an error. The campaign staff for Colbert Busch indicated that Sanford had taken money from Labor groups during an earlier campaign, but that money actually went to Sanford Bishop, a Georgia pol.
Since then, however, his campaign has reeled from one disaster to another. First, there was the trespassing charge. On Superbowl night, Sanford went into his ex-wife's home to watch the Superbowl with his youngest son, a 14-year old. He was caught at a door to the house using his cellphone as a flashlight by his ex-wife when she came home. According to the allegations in the complaint filed in family law court, this was one of a "pattern" of trespasses.
This incident created a worldwide backlash against the ex-Governor, who, as you'll remember, had already been a national disgrace for leaving his post as head of state for six days to travel to Argentina to see his mistress. In doing so, he used taxpayer funds for the trip, for which he was charged with 30+ ethical violations. He also told his staff that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, so he'd lied about it.
Additionally, at the time of the trespassing charges, Sanford's twitter account included such unintentionally funny gems as the following (these are screengrabs of actual Mark Sanford tweets):
Of course, Sanford was spending his time violating court orders.
The above tweet linked to a picture of Elizabeth Colbert Busch and her brother, Stephen Colbert. Of course, those two don't share the "lowcountry values" of trespassing, violating court orders and trans-continental adultery.
Subsequently, the GOP moneybags backed off of Mark Sanford after these latest transgressions, so that he is very underfunded at this point. I believe that Colbert Busch and Democrats on her behalf have out-spent the Republican 35-1 in advertising purchases to date.
The latest off the trail strangeness occurred when Sanford, before an audience of one or two passersby, debated a cardboard cutout of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosit. That, I believe, was the one that tipped the scales completely over. This is from Sanford's scrapbook:
And there's nothing like fine dining after a hard day on the campaign trail!
The Democrat is Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who has lived in Charleston for years, and who's father has his name on a very important medical building in the area. She is not exactly Bernie Sanders, but she's by far the best that this district could ever hope to get at this point. I have called this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, much like the Scott Brown win in the Massachusetts Senate special election of 2010. If you want to help Elizabeth Colbert Busch and make a big splash across the headlines on May 8--(the election is May 7)--you can donate your time or money here.
UPDATE: The debate's over. I would call it a huge win for Elizabeth Colbert Busch straight up. If you factor in "the expectations game," ECB was a KNOCKOUT WINNER! She had one moment where I thought I was watching Hillary Clinton, she was that good. Sanford brought attention to his fascination for Cardboard Pelosi (as David Nir calls her) on at least five occasions. He was booed each time. Also, he stumbled around once so badly that he got laughed at. He did get loud applause from the Tea Partiers in the audience for his Tea Party checklist (voucherize schools, privatize SS, block grant Medicaid). Colbert Busch also got loud applause, and she was never booed or laughed at. I think ECB could one day be SC Governor or a Senator (but demographics may not work in her favor quickly enough). Of course, it is very early to make projections like this, as she is quite the rookie with only a Democratic primary (against a Republican pretending to be a faux-Democrat), one debate and about a month-long campaign against a wounded GOP dinosaur. Still, she is that promising, and for South Carolina Democrats, that is heaven sent.
FINAL UPDATE: The major takeaway from the debate is probably that Mark Sanford lost his last, best chance to change the momentum in the race. The last public poll that I'm aware of had ECB in the lead by nine percentage points. You can see the PPP poll here, and it has a date of April 22. A lot of bad things have happened to Mark Sanford since then, including his strange full page ad in the Charleston paper, Cardboard Pelosi, learning that he was disingenuous about his trespassing "excuse" (There were two children there, not just the younger 14-year old at home alone; the older brother was in the home as well.), other Republican groups backing away from him, etc.