Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has made a political comeback no one could’ve predicted, winning a seat in the House of Representatives in a special election that took place in that state yesterday. Sanford defeated Elizabeth Colbert Busch, an accomplished business woman and older sister to comedian Stephen Colbert, by a solid nine points.
The special election was held to fill a seat vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott.
Sanford, you’ll recall, left office in disgrace after it was discovered that a walk on the Appalachian Trail he claimed to be taking was actually a ruse to give him time to go to Argentina to spend time with his girlfriend, making him not just a liar but an adulterer. This girlfriend is now his fiancee. During the course of the campaign, it was also revealed from his divorce papers that he’d been charged with trespassing by his now ex-wife Jenny. He still has to appear in court over the charge.
Sanford and Colbert Busch had been in a statistical tie going into yesterday. But weeks of campaigning in which Sanford linked Colbert Busch to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who’s not well-liked in those parts) took a toll.
“He challenged Colbert Busch to say how she would differentiate herself from Pelosi,” writes Politico. “And he her for accepting campaign help from Washington-based groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC, which combined to spend nearly $1 million on the TV airwaves against him.” Sanford was outspent, appeared on a billboard for the cheating site Ashley Madison (they used his image without his permission), and ran ads that made no sense. But, he got out the votes.
Moreover, Politico says, Sanford is a good politician, doing the legwork and appealing to evangelical voters with religious language. For her part, the site says Colbert Busch had trouble getting her message out and didn’t spend enough time with voters speaking at events.
As has been stated many times before, Americans love a comeback. But is this the best thing for South Carolina, or the rest of us, since he’ll be in Congress voting on laws that we all have to live by? We can forgive, and some things are personal. (Let’s think back to the brouhaha over President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.) But Sanford was guilty of leaving his elected post without alerting the proper chain of command, showing both poor judgment and selfishness. These aren’t qualities we want in a legislator. Even Politico frames the choice as one where the state chose to stick with the devil they know.