Budget Hawk Sanford Seeks Redemption in Congressional Race

There’s no holding down the people of South Carolina.

The state’s congressional runoff, where the 1st congressional district hangs in the balance, has drawn national attention with former Gov. Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert-Busch among the pack. But it is the people of South Carolina that are the true standouts in the race.

The runoff is the result of Rep. Tim Scott taking the Senate seat that Jim DeMint left behind, and it seems like everyone wants a piece of the unusual election. Endorsements have poured in from outside of the state, from notables like Ann Coulter and Rick Santorum. Talk to a person in the 1st district, though, and you will see the true feelings of the voting bloc.

“You can tell Ann Coulter to put a sock in it,” one GOP supporter said. “We don’t like being told what to do and who to vote for.”

South Carolinians are famous for being politically outspoken, pointed, and unapologetic. (It is something that has made them Jon Stewart fodder throughout the years.) But for anyone who should have anything to say about the race for Congress, their message is clear: The people of the district will ultimately decide for themselves.

Former Charleston City Councilman Curtis Bostic—Sanford’s main competition for the Republican nomination—has won over voters with his talk of fresh ideas and conservative camaraderie.

“I can bring people together around conservative ideas,” said Bostic at the first congressional debate on Thursday night. “I can unite people around a common cause. I believe we can build success by working as a team.”

The people of the 1st district look ready for those efforts, sitting on the cusp of economic recovery with gains in the private sector and travel. Supporters of Colbert-Busch, on the other hand, are eyeing a crucial power grab in a historically conservative stronghold.

“No question: They want this seat. They want to beat us here,” said Chad Connelly, SC GOP Chairman. “This isn’t just about South Carolina. This is national, with national implications.”

And this election’s national claim to fame is a candidate with an embarrassing past. During the debate, Sanford tiptoed over his personal elephant in the room: The 2009 scandal that forced him out of office and out of the political arena.

The former governor somberly addressed the debacle. “The events of 2009 represent a failure on my part for which there will always be consequences. But do the events of your life define your life or refine it?”

“I have fought to stay out of the debates on Sanford’s trust. But a compromised candidate is not what we need,” said Bostic in response.

Without a doubt, Sanford is a walking case study in the failure to meet moral platitudes. While Bostic has publicly refused to go negative in his advertisements, stating that races aren’t won by mudslinging nor by dirty tactics, he pointedly attacked Sanford at Thursday's debate. Maybe he knows, however, it won’t work: Sanford’s popularity remains high, and his name recognition gives him a slight edge.

In spite of this overwhelming voter response, flyers distributed by activists at the debate took potshots at Sanford’s famous indiscretions. The people of South Carolina have a long memory.

Sanford still leads his opponent, and many say he will go on to face Colbert-Busch in the main election. He has raised almost twice the amount of money that Bostic has throughout the campaign.

But South Carolinians cannot be bought, said Bostic campaign staffer Kerry Wood. “People here are not impressed by money. A lot of the other candidates outraised us by thousands of dollars: We are still here. ”

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