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Special elections can be a funny thing, and in terms of politics, the possibility of an upset is always greater in a special election than in the general. Special elections tend to have lower turnout and since the primary season is a lot shorter; political parties usually end up nominating someone with a higher name recognition even though there could be political baggage.
Well in South Carolina, there is a special election set in the 1st Congressional District that will take in place in early May and it could be an interesting race. The seat was left open following Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate to replace the retiring Jim DeMint. Since the area is HIGHLY red (R+11 district), it was expected that this would be a cakewalk for the Republican Party to retain the seat.
Then a few things happened that made this rather interesting.
First, the Democrats had a candidate that was a step above the average perennial candidate in Elizabeth Colbert Busch (who will only be referenced once as Stephen Colbert’s sister and that’s now). In the past candidates such as Ben Frasier have won primaries only to not run any noteworthy campaign. In fact its been so bad that people have made reasonably claims that Frasier might have been a Republican plant.
Another thing was that the South Carolina Republican Party had a heavily fractured primary. Sixteen Republicans ran for the nomination and plenty of the candidates had deep pockets, including Teddy Turner, son of cable mogul Ted. With only such little time to announce a run and flood the airwaves with often negative campaign ads. Since there was a huge field and South Carolina has a runoff (if the winning candidate doesn’t net over 50% of the vote, there is a second election two weeks later between the top two finishers), many were just playing for the runoff.
But why use negative advertisements? Since many of the candidates were either state Reps. or Sens., there couldn’t have been enough information to bombard someone over right?
Wrong. A man by the name of Mark Sanford entered the race. You might remember him from his follies on the Appalachian Trail when actually he was visiting his Argentinean mistress. He, not shockingly, survived his sex scandal to go for a second act in South Carolinian politics. But Sanford instantly made the race watchable.
Everyone remembers Sanford and fortunately for Democrats, their impression on him has to be negative. He left office as a national punch line but since he had the highest name recognition and deep pockets himself, he was the immediate frontrunner.
Now while everyone is focused on the Republican Party, Colbert Busch continued to campaign the state drumming up her own name. Sure she is a Democrat in a highly red district, but considering how unpopular Sanford is and how toxic his name can be; she becomes a player.
Then Sanford won a runoff against Curtis Bostic and the Republican Party have to be hoping for a seat that they might’ve thought would be a walkthrough. Surely if Frasier won, it would’ve been an easy win regardless of who the Republican Party nominated. But instead, a legitimate contender emerged.
Now the most important question emerging is if Elizabeth Colbert Busch actually has a shot to pull off a political upset. If a recent poll by Lake Research (commissioned by the Colbert Busch campaign) is to be believed, Colbert Busch may very well be the frontrunner.
But the idea remains that the red hue of the district will make this race a tight one. Sanford has the advantages with money (though Colbert Busch has proven to be an apt fundraiser), name recognition and homefield advantage.
However, Colbert Busch can win this election. Think about it, she is nearly teflon thanks to Sanford’s indiscretions. Whatever attack Sanford uses, all Colbert Busch has to say is that he abandoned his state to visit his mistress and lied to his advisors and the people. Sanford has just a little bit over a month to campaign so there is no way he can adequately apologize for his own indiscretions.
Colbert Busch can expect tons of help from the Democratic establishment, in fact New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is already fundraising for her, and also will have enough time to explain her views on positions without Sanford being able to attack her. Remember Sanford will only have four weeks to launch an attack and Colbert Busch can simply run as a pro-business Democrat.
The heat will be on Sanford as this is his first re-emergence in the national spotlight since he was hiking/fornicating. He has a lot to explain for himself and there just simply isn’t enough time to do just that. Everyday that goes by is a missed opportunity for him and another for the Democrats to attack him as out-of-touch with his constituents.
Also he may not have the support of his ex-wife Jenny Sanford, who also doubled as a campaign manager. This will be a test of if Mark can run a campaign with a different team surrounding him. If Jenny does not endorse him, the race will continue to look rather ugly for Mark.
The Democrats have a shot here and it would be wise to jump in it if you can by donating to Elizabeth Colbert Busch. This seat may very well turn red in 2014, but if it can stay blue, its one less seat that the Democrats will need to pick up.