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Elizabeth Colbert Bush campaigning
A good night for Elizabeth Colbert Busch
Elizabeth Colbert Busch, businesswoman and sister of Stephen Colbert, met former South Carolina governor and famed hiker Mark Sanford in their only debate in the special election for South Carolina's First Congressional District Monday night. With the district's political lean favoring Sanford but Sanford's disastrous personal life and questionable judgment having helped Colbert Busch to a lead in the polls, Sanford needed a game-changer and Colbert Busch needed to show that she can hold her own. Colbert Busch appears to have succeeded, performing more aggressively than many frontrunners who try to maintain the status quo without taking any risks.

On the disappointing side from a policy standpoint, Colbert Busch worked to put distance between herself and the unions that Sanford has attacked her for accepting support from; also, while she expressed support for parts of the Affordable Care Act, her criticisms were not exactly coming from the left. But she also provided a strong contrast with Sanford on a host of key issues, coming out in support of marriage equality, by "Quoting (former Republican Vice President) Dick Cheney, 'Freedom is freedom for everyone.'" While Sanford said he would vote against background checks for gun buyers, Colbert Busch expressed support. Sanford would oppose immigration reform; Colbert Busch would support it.

But of course the headlines revolve around the fact that, as one of the moderators said during the debate, "She went there." "There" being Sanford's 2009 disappearance from the state to carry on an affair in Argentina, an affair for which it turned out he'd used state money. In response to Sanford's predictable talk about how careful he was with taxpayer money, Colbert Busch said:

“When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn’t mean you take the money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose.” [...]

With much of the crowd hooting and hollering, Sanford seemed shaken.

“I couldn’t hear what she said… repeat it, I didn’t hear,” he said.

“Answer the question,” Colbert Busch interjected.

“What was the question?” Sanford said, appearing stunned.“Ok, but anyway, ah ah, on the sequester, I’ll go back to the sequester…”

Sanford, by contrast, tried to attack Colbert Busch as a tool of everyone who's raised money for her, repeatedly returning to his debate with a poster of Nancy Pelosi. But everyone knows Sanford would have been happy to accept money from all the equivalent Republican sources—except that support for him evaporated in the wake of those trespassing charges and the bad polling.

All in all, a good night for Elizabeth Colbert Busch and a bad one for Mark Sanford, with a week to go until the election.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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